Victoria Police

Victoria Police employees' perceptions of corruption 2022

Summary of key insights

Theme

Key findings

Opportunities

Perceptions about corruption as a problem in the workplace

  • Worsening over time (compared to 2016)
  • Regional locations more likely to think it’s a problem
  • Explore what’s driving the declining perceptions
  • Prioritise regional work locations

Behaviours most likely to be a ‘high risk’

  • Favouritism/nepotism
  • Breach of professional boundaries (bullying and harassment)
  • Over half suspect or have observed these behaviours
  • Prioritise these behaviours for education and prevention and detection activities

Organisational ethical culture

  • Most see the workplace culture as at least ‘moderately’ ethical but mixed views about the role of leaders
  • Most rate their organisation as vulnerable to misconduct or corruption
  • Regular monitoring of ethical health and integrity indicators
  • Ensure leaders ‘set the tone from the top’

Reporting corruption and misconduct

  • Mixed views about whether complaints are taken seriously, lower among employees with less than 10 years’ experience
  • Concerns regarding anonymity, safety and repercussions when making a complaint
  • Most would report to Professional Standards Command or their immediate manager
  • Most think the organisation is taking measures to improve integrity
  • Prioritise information for employees with less than 10 years’ experience
  • Raise awareness about systems and protections available to support individuals making a complaint
  • Review/improve organisational prevention education
  • Ensure people managers understand their role and complaint handling processes to follow

Awareness and understanding of IBAC

  • Almost all are aware of IBAC, most have a good understanding of what IBAC does
  • Information mainly from media reporting
  • Raise awareness of other ways to find out about IBAC (eg website, prevention tools)

Prevalence of corruption and misconduct

Almost all Victoria Police employees (95%) agree that they ‘know what behaviour constitutes corruption’.

Almost all Victoria Police employees (95%) agree that they ‘know what behaviour constitutes corruption’. 

Seven in ten employees (73%) ‘strongly agree’ they know what behaviour constitutes corruption, while one per cent disagree. This result is significantly higher compared to the findings from the 2016 survey of Victoria Police employees where 90% agreed.

Most believe police misconduct occurs in Victoria but not in their workplace; the exception is for employees working in regional locations who are more likely to believe police misconduct is a problem in their workplace.

Perceptions that police misconduct happens and is a problem in Victoria have increased significantly since 2016.

In 2022, a large majority (84%) agree that police misconduct happens in Victoria, far fewer (15%) agree that it is a problem in their workplace. Victoria Police employees working in regional locations are significantly more likely to believe police misconduct is a problem in their workplace (21%).

Perceptions that police misconduct happens and is a problem in Victoria have increased significantly since 2016.

Graph 1. Agreement with statements about police misconduct in Victoria (%)

*Note wording change from 2016 – ‘corruption’ replaced with ‘police misconduct’ in 2022. This wording change may have impacted on the comparability of the results between 2016 and 2022 so the results should be compared with caution.

Common corruption or misconduct risks include unauthorised access to information and nepotism. 

Victoria Police employees were asked to self-nominate the most significant corruption or misconduct risks facing their organisation. Key risks mentioned include nepotism and cronyism, drug use within the force and the disclosure and access of confidential information. Concerns regarding the risks of bribery, assault, failures in duty and associations with organised crime are also touched upon.

Most employees say there is a ‘high risk’ of favouritism and breaches of professional boundaries occurring in Victoria Police.

Over 80 per cent of employees also perceive a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk of other improper behaviours including breaches of professional boundaries (85%) and inaction (81%).Over half of Victoria Police employees surveyed (52%) say there is a ‘high risk’ of favouritism or nepotism at work and 33 per cent perceive a ‘medium’ risk. 

Over 80 per cent of employees also perceive a ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk of other improper behaviours including breaches of professional boundaries (85%) and inaction (81%). 

Women and managers of other managers are significantly more likely to believe there is a ‘medium’ to ‘high risk’ of many of the improper behaviours occurring in Victoria Police.

Women and managers of other managers are significantly more likely to believe there is a ‘medium’ to ‘high risk’ of many of the improper behaviours occurring in Victoria Police.

Graph 2. Likelihood or risk of improper behaviours occurring in Victoria Police (%)

Over half of Victoria Police employees surveyed have suspected or observed behaviours such as bullying and harassment or favouritism.

Approximately 30 per cent claim to have personally observed favouritism or nepotism or a breach of professional boundaries (eg bullying and harassment, exceeding delegated powers, inappropriate relationships, sexual harassment) in the last 12 months (30% and 28% respectively). Slightly fewer have suspected the same improper behaviours over the time period (28% and 25% respectively). 

Approximately 90 per cent of Victoria Police employees reported they neither suspected nor observed many of the other forms of improper behaviour within their organisation, such as theft, bribery, or extortion. However, there is a significantly higher incidence of ‘suspecting’ or ‘observing’ bribery and inducements among those who have worked in Victoria Police for up to 10 years (11%). 

Among those who live in regional areas, there is a significantly higher incidence of ‘neither suspecting nor observing’ the same behaviour (95%); this is despite the finding that employees working in regional locations are more likely to perceive police misconduct to be a problem in their workplace compared to employees from non-regional locations. These perceptions could be further explored by Victoria Police.

Direct comparisons to the 2016 survey findings are not possible regarding the extent to which employees had observed or suspected the different types of improper behaviours. However, it is noteworthy that in 2022, eight per cent of employees report having personally observed misuse of resources (eg unauthorised access/use of confidential information or misuse of assets) compared to 20 per cent who report having observed misuse of information or material in 2016. However, more employees had suspected these improper behaviours in 2016 (49%) compared to 2022 (25%). A similar trend between 2022 and 2016 has been observed in relation to inaction or ‘abuse of discretion’ (17% personally observed ‘inaction’ in 2022 compared to 22% who had observed ‘abuse of discretion’ in 2016).

Approximately 30 per cent claim to have personally observed favouritism or nepotism or a breach of professional boundaries (eg bullying and harassment, exceeding delegated powers, inappropriate relationships, sexual harassment) in the last 12 months (30% and 28% respectively).

Graph 3. Suspicion or observations of improper behaviours (%)

Accepting a bribe or removing drugs from a crime scene are clearly understood to be corrupt behaviours.

Ninety-four per cent of Victoria Police employees think that accepting bribes is ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ corrupt. Eighty-four per cent think the same for circumstances where drugs are removed from a crime scene. 

The behaviours that employees are most likely to consider as ‘probably not corruption or misconduct’ are accepting free food from a fast-food outlet (30%) or when a unit within Victoria Police pays for and hosts an extravagant staff Christmas party (19%). 

The behaviours that employees are most likely to consider as ‘probably not corruption or misconduct’ are accepting free food from a fast-food outlet (30%) or when a unit within Victoria Police pays for and hosts an extravagant staff Christmas party (19%).

Graph 4. Perception of improper behaviours being corrupt or misconduct (%)

The majority of Victoria Police employees describe the ethical culture as ‘strong’ (34%) or ‘moderate’ (50%).

The majority of Victoria Police employees describe the ethical culture as ‘strong’ (34%) or ‘moderate’ (50%).

Graph 5. Ethical culture of the organisation (%)

Victoria Police employees working in the organisation for up to 10 years are significantly more likely to rate the ethical culture as ‘weak’ (22%) compared to the average employee (16%). 

Victoria Police employees were asked to elaborate on their ratings. There is consensus that the majority of employees behave ethically, and this creates a sense of a strong ethical culture (the actions of a few undermine the overall culture). Among those that rate the ethical culture of the organisation as weak there is a recurring theme that senior staff set the standards but do not necessarily adhere to them.

Examples of some of the comments that illustrate these themes are provided below.

Examples of some of the comments that illustrate these themes are provided below.

More than nine in ten employees surveyed believe their organisation is vulnerable to misconduct or corruption.

Only nine per cent of Victoria Police employees rate their organisation as ‘not vulnerable’ to corruption and misconduct.

Only nine per cent of Victoria Police employees rate their  organisation as ‘not vulnerable’ to corruption and misconduct.

Graph 6. Organisational vulnerability to corruption and misconduct (%)

Reporting corruption and misconduct

There are mixed views about whether a report of corruption or misconduct would be taken seriously.

Just over half of Victoria Police employees (56%) believe a report of corruption or misconduct would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be taken seriously. Longer serving police employees (20+ years in Victoria Police) are more likely to believe a report of corruption would ‘definitely’ be taken seriously (34%). 

Just over half of Victoria Police employees (56%) believe a report of corruption or misconduct would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be taken seriously.

Graph 7. Would a report of corruption be taken seriously (%)

An increasing proportion of police employees agree that reporting corruption or misconduct is the right thing to do.

Victoria Police employees typically agree that ‘if I personally observed corruption or misconduct, I would definitely report it’ (87%, including 57% who ‘strongly agree’). This is a significant improvement on the 2016 result, where 80 per cent of employees agreed.

Over three-quarters of employees (78%) agree that they ‘know how to report corruption or misconduct’, including 50 per cent who ‘strongly agree’. However, 11 per cent indicated they do not know how to report corruption or misconduct. Agreement is significantly lower among those with less than 10 years in Victoria Police (62%).

Overall, responses from employees suggest there are concerns regarding anonymity and safety when making a complaint. More employees in 2022 agree they ‘would report corruption or misconduct only if I knew my report would be anonymous’ (45%) compared to 2016 (34%) and similar numbers agree they ‘would not report corruption or misconduct if my employment or safety was threatened’ (43% in 2022 compared to 34% in 2016). Women and employees with less than 10 years’ experience in Victoria Police are significantly more likely to agree with these statements.

Fewer than seven in 10 employees (68%) agree that Victoria Police actively encourages the reporting of corruption or police misconduct, including 38 per cent who strongly agree. Agreement is significantly lower among those with less than 10 years in Victoria Police (54%).

Most Victoria Police employees would report serious corruption and misconduct to the Professional Standards Command (63%). An employee’s immediate manager (59%) and IBAC (53%) are the other main avenues that would be used. This finding was consistent across all groups of employees.

Graph 8. Agreement with statements regarding corruption and misconduct

Victoria Police employees are most likely to report corruption or misconduct to Professional Standards Command.

Most Victoria Police employees would report serious corruption and misconduct to the Professional Standards Command (63%). An employee’s immediate manager (59%) and IBAC (53%) are the other main avenues that would be used. This finding was consistent across all groups of employees.

There is increasing agreement among police employees that there are personal repercussions from making a report.

There are mixed views from Victoria Police employees regarding the protections available for those who make a report. More employees agree in 2022 that there are channels available to report corruption or misconduct (79% compared to 69% in 2016) and that if they made a report that ‘meaningful action would be taken’ (43% compared to 38% in 2016).

However, less than half agree that ‘it is possible to protect people in Victoria Police who have reported corruption or misconduct’ (44% compared to 39% in 2016). Furthermore, 60 per cent agree that if they made a report, they ‘would experience personal repercussions (other than losing my job)’ (compared to 46% in 2016) and that they could lose their job if they did make a report (27% compared to 18% in 2016). Employees working in managerial roles are more likely to agree that protections exist for those who make a report.

There are mixed views from Victoria Police employees regarding the protections available for those who make a report. More employees agree in 2022 that there are channels available to report corruption or misconduct (79% compared to 69% in 2016) and that if they made a report that ‘meaningful action would be taken’ (43% compared to 38% in 2016).

Graph 9. Agreement with statements regarding protections for those who make a report (%)

Confidence in knowledge of how to report corruption or misconduct has grown in past years.

Most Victoria Police employees agree that they contribute to improving integrity within their organisation. Over eighty per cent agree with the statements ‘I support corruption or misconduct prevention activities in my unit’ (86%) and ‘Preventing corruption or misconduct in my unit is my responsibility’ (83%). However, fewer employees agree that ‘the culture at Victoria Police encourages people to act with honesty and integrity’ (72% agree, this is a statistically significant decline from 77% in 2016). A consistent finding is that those with less than 10 years in Victoria Police have lower agreement on many integrity and prevention measures.

A consistent finding is that those with less than 10 years in Victoria Police have lower agreement on many integrity and prevention measures.

Graph 10. Improving integrity and preventing corruption (%)

Most employees feel their organisation is at least adequately improving integrity.

A quarter of Victoria Police employees rate their organisation’s performance as ‘very well’ when it comes to ‘ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place’ (24%). Approximately a third consider their organisation’s performance as at least ‘adequate’ when it comes to training and education and ensuring an ethical culture. Longer serving police employees are more likely to consider their organisation has actions in place to improve integrity.

A quarter of Victoria Police employees rate their organisation’s performance as ‘very well’ when it comes to ‘ensuring strong policies, procedures and controls are in place’ (24%).

Graph 11. Organisational performance in improving integrity and preventing corruption (%)

Victoria Police employees were asked to nominate one thing that their organisation could do better to reduce risks of corrupt conduct occurring. Among those that provided a response, themes include the necessity for anonymity and protection of those who make a report of misconduct, an independent investigative body, and leaders being held to the same standards and punishments as junior staff. Other topics raised were the need for leadership to lead by example, education and training, and meaningful action to be taken against people who do wrong.

Awareness and perceptions of IBAC

Almost all Victoria Police employees have heard about IBAC, and most have a ‘good understanding’ of what IBAC does.

Almost all Victoria Police employees have heard of IBAC, and more than half (58%) have a ‘good understanding’ of what IBAC does. Awareness and understanding are significantly higher among those with more than 20 years in Victoria Police (67%), managers (69%) and highest of all for those who manage other managers (81%). Employees with less than 10 years’ service are significantly less likely than average to have a ‘good understanding’ of IBAC (44%).

Employees with less than 10 years’ service are significantly less likely than average to have a ‘good understanding’ of IBAC (44%).

Graph 12. Awareness of IBAC (%)

Media reporting is the primary reason employees have heard about IBAC in the last 12 months.

A little over two thirds of employees (68%) have seen IBAC in media reporting in the last year. Nearly half (45%) have discussed IBAC in conversations, and this increases to 59 per cent for those who manage other managers. Nine per cent report having had involvement in an IBAC investigation, which increases to 22 per cent for those who manage other managers.

Victoria Police employees have some level of confidence in IBAC.

Half of Victoria Police employees (50%) are confident (either ‘somewhat confident’, ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’) in IBAC’s ability to prevent corruption and police misconduct. A larger group is confident in IBAC’s ability to detect (54%) or investigate (55%) corruption and police misconduct – but at least a third are ‘not confident’. 

There is a higher level of confidence in IBAC’s role among those aged under 40 years (72% - inform, 62% - detect and 65% - investigate, respectively). Managers are significantly less likely to be ‘very confident’ or ‘confident’ in IBAC’s ability to investigate corruption and police misconduct (21% compared to 26% for Victoria Police employees overall). 

There is a higher level of confidence in IBAC’s role among those aged under 40 years (72% - inform, 62% - detect and 65% - investigate, respectively).

Graph 13. Confidence in IBAC (%)

Feedback from those who reported they were ‘not confident’ in at least one aspect of IBAC’s role suggests concerns exist about IBAC referring investigations back to police and a lack of action or outcomes resulting from investigations. Also mentioned was a lack of resources and independence, and a perceived oversight in investigations into high level employees and issues.

Feedback from those who reported they were ‘not confident’ in at least one aspect of IBAC’s role suggests concerns exist about IBAC referring investigations back to police and a lack of action or outcomes resulting from investigations.

Demographics

Here is a snapshot of the demographic characteristics of participants who completed the Victoria Police survey:

average time working at vicpolSex

Male: 62%; Female: 23%;
Prefer to self-describe: 1%

Geographical location

Work in metropolitan Melbourne: 72%
Work in regional Victoria: 17%

Age

Under 40 years old: 23%

Status

Sworn police officer: 79%

Experience

Up to 5 years working in the public sector: 26%
More than 20 years in the public sector: 25%

Management 

Total managers:

  • Manager of others: 55%
  • Manage other managers (among those who manage others): 38%

About the survey

In August 2022, a variety of communication channels were used to promote an online survey to employees working within Victoria Police. The survey was open to sworn police officers, protective services officers, and public servants employed at Victoria Police. In total, 1,001 Victoria Police employees completed most of the survey between 12 August – 1 September 2022.

The findings from the 2022 survey have been compared with the IBAC survey of Victoria Police undertaken in 2016 (in 2016, 1,172 employees participated). It is important to note that while some questions were retained, the questionnaire structure was updated in 2022, meaning results may not be directly comparable.

At the time the 2022 survey was open there was media reporting relating to IBAC and several major operations. This may have impacted on some of the perceptions reported by participants in the surveys.