IBAC Insights (newsletter)

Predatory behaviour continues within Victoria Police

In May, IBAC released a review of allegations of predatory behaviour by Victoria Police officers.

Predatory behaviour is where a police officer misuses their position to begin – or attempt to begin – an emotional or sexual relationship with a person they meet in the course of their duties. It can also relate to the sexual assault, stalking, harassment or grooming of a person.

The thematic review assessed 27 Victoria Police investigations of alleged predatory behaviour by police officers between 2018 and 2022 and found that evidence of predatory behaviour within Victoria Police persists and that many cases went unreported.

Thematic reviews are when IBAC assesses whether Victoria Police investigations have been conducted in a way that is thorough, impartial, fair – and assesses whether their findings are evidence based and outcomes are reasonable.

Despite efforts undertaken by Victoria Police over recent years, our review shows that predatory behaviour continues. We found women experiencing domestic or family violence were targets of predatory behaviour by police officers and more than half of all cases reviewed indicated a pattern of behaviour by the perpetrator against more than one person

The Victoria Police Manual specifies that some consensual workplace relationships may be considered predatory due to a power imbalance or other circumstances, but police officers are not required to declare intimate relationships in the workplace. More than half the cases IBAC reviewed indicated some level of tolerance for inappropriate behaviour or inaction by managers in response to allegations.

IBAC’s review found that most Victoria Police investigations into predatory behaviour took a victim-centred approach, were thorough, made evidence-based findings and included appropriate sanctions that aligned with public expectations. However, in some cases IBAC found Victoria Police’s Discipline Advisory Unit (now the Legal Discipline Advisory Unit) provided problematic advice to investigators, including recommending sanctions that were not consistent with investigation findings, Victoria Police standards or community expectations.

Following its review, IBAC has made recommendations to Victoria Police to reduce predatory behaviour and strengthen internal investigations, which it has accepted. IBAC will monitor their implementation.

IBAC’s recommendations include:

  • Improvements to Victoria Police’s employee training, complaint investigation reporting, and record keeping.
  • Improvements to the advice provided by Victoria Police’s Legal Discipline Advisory Unit.
  • Clearer guidance for employees on the declaration and management of intimate or personal workplace relationships.
  • Increased monitoring of the ethical health of police officers who are subject to predatory behaviour allegations.