Parliament: Questions Kelly's Asked

Reporting and Training Methods of Police in Response to Domestic Violence Issues

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking questions of the Minister for Police regarding policies and practice of SAPOL in relation to reporting and file keeping regarding domestic violence issues.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Issues regarding communication between SAPOL branches and record keeping in relation to specific cases have come to my attention in recent times, following a constituent issue that my office has been following for almost five months now. With this matter, we have found inconsistencies in the way care and concern reports are recorded within files and so on. My questions are:

1.What SAPOL procedures are in place when a care concern report is made about an adult with an intellectual disability in particular, where they are known to reside with a person who has been charged with domestic violence offences?

2.Is the IT used within SAPOL up to date enough adequately to reflect the complexity of policing in 2016?

3.What record-keeping procedures are in place around known domestic violence perpetrators who may reside with potentially vulnerable people?

4.What upgrades in information technology are planned for the near future for SAPOL?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I thank the honourable member for her question. I have already, today, made a number of remarks regarding domestic violence in terms of the government’s commitment to ensuring that we are a state which has been at the cutting edge of the development of policy and practices to ensure that we are trying to have a positive effect on the rate of domestic violence that occurs within the state.

The police commissioner on the radio earlier this week—and I think this is well known throughout the community—stated that we have seen a spike in the level of reporting of domestic violence events throughout the state. I think it would be naïve to assume that this is somehow a reflection upon a dramatic uptake in the incidence of domestic violence, rather than the fact that we as a community are only just beginning to learn of the severity and the high level of incidence of domestic violence that exists within the community. I think it is a positive event that people, mainly women, are having the courage to report incidents of domestic violence and put their name to the fact that this is not acceptable behaviour.

Regarding policing and IT, we are a state government that wants to make sure that the South Australian police force has the best available equipment that we can provide them with to ensure that they have all the tools they need to be able to effectively police the South Australian community, and that goes to all issues, but particularly domestic violence. There has been a range of investments the government has made over a sustained period of time to equip the police to be able to do that.

An investment in MAPS in and of itself is a good example of cutting-edge policing methods and effort, not just within SAPOL but across government agencies, to ensure that we are sharing data and information, and there is an innovative IT platform that exists within MAPS that actually enables that to occur. So, whether it be facilitating record keeping out on the front line or in the back end, we have been a government that is trying to make sure that we are investing in SAPOL’s efforts and capacity to be able to deal with record keeping regarding domestic violence more generally. Your last question?

The Hon. K.L. Vincent interjecting:

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS: In terms of upgrades coming forward, of course there is a whole range of areas of technology that SAPOL is looking at in terms of policing generally, things like body-worn video and facial recognition technology. There is a whole range of different technologies that are constantly coming online across the globe when it comes to resourcing policing, and we are committed to being a government that makes sure that we are working with SAPOL, in the context of the state budget, to ensure that we are investing in new technologies.

Any time that SAPOL becomes aware of an innovative new technology that they think would assist them in being able to better police the South Australian community, whether it be in the area of domestic violence or otherwise, then of course they should bring that to the government’s attention and we will be all too ready to sit down with the police commissioner and ensure that we can try to accommodate any request of that nature, where it is possible to do so.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Supplementary: can the minister elaborate on what level of training the police have received or continue to receive in terms of identifying where an adult, in particular, might be experiencing domestic violence and might need assistance to communicate that, such as a person with a brain injury or an intellectual disability of some kind?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I am advised that SAPOL is regularly updating its training. As I said earlier, I was down at the police academy only in the last couple of weeks and was able to get a substantial briefing from the committed staff within SAPOL who deal with the training of new cadets, but also the training of ongoing police officers.

One of the great challenges that exists within SAPOL is to make sure that we are constantly updating officers with the changing environment of policing, and this is something that we have to be ready to remind ourselves of as a government and also as a community at large, that policing is not a stagnating effort. The policing methods that SAPOL adopted 20 years ago aren’t necessarily appropriate today. We have to make sure, and SAPOL is very committed to making sure, that all their officers aren’t just getting trained on what might have been best practice 20 years ago or 10 years ago, but what is best practice now.

Combined with best practice changes, of course, is the changing nature of the challenges and demands that are being put in front of SAPOL. We have seen, over a sustained period of time, very substantial steps forward in terms of community behaviour around particular types of issues. A good example of this is drink driving. Society’s attitudes towards issues like wearing seatbelts and drink driving have progressed in an enormous way, which may, of course, mean we need to adapt the policing methods that accompany such policy challenges, and domestic violence is a good example of this.

I am happy to seek further information in regard to training modules that specifically go to the issue of domestic violence, but I just want to assure the chamber and the Hon. Ms Vincent that SAPOL is constantly evolving and constantly adapting and updating their training regimes and their training modules to ensure that not just new cadets but also the police force more generally is at the cutting edge of dealing with new issues as they arise within the community.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I have a further supplementary question. Further to that, what training do police have to ascertain where a domestic violence perpetrator may have undue influence over an adult with an intellectual disability who is living with them? For example, where a sibling or a friend is listed as the official family carer and might be receiving the carer payment and, therefore, has a vested interest in maintaining control over the adult with the disability so that they remain in the household and therefore continue to receive the additional benefits.

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I thank the honourable member for her supplementary question. That is something I will have to take on notice in respect to the specific type of training that we are talking about. Again, I reiterate that the challenge of domestic violence is evolving. Whether there is any more as time goes on about how best to deal with domestic violence is a policy issue generally. We remain a government that is committed to try to do everything we can to address this scourge that causes so much pain and heartache to so many families and women across this state. We want to make sure that we continue to evolve and adapt, but I am happy to take the specific type of issue that the honourable member is talking about away to see if I can gain some more information to share with the Hon. Ms Vincent.