Specialised police

In a number of jurisdictions, police officers specialise in family violence and sexual assault.[1] There is substantial merit in the use of specialised police units. Liaison officers provide an important early point of contact, and continuity in contact, for victims and assist them in navigating the legal system. Specialised police at all levels provide contact points for inter-agency collaboration, and may form a key element of integrated responses. Further, monitoring and supervision by specialised police is likely to improve consistency in the application of laws in the context of family violence. In particular, the comprehensive models in Victoria and Western Australia, which designate specialised units at different levels of command and across a wide range of functions appear most promising. The use of specialised police, however, is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, important general measures such as a Code of Practice and training of operational police.

In expressing these views, the Commissions are aware that there is relatively little information on the roles of specialised police, and relatively little empirical evidence of their value. Further, the Commissions recognise that police services have different needs, strengths, policy frameworks and organisational structures, and operate in different policy and operational contexts.

In light of this, the Commissions invite stakeholders to provide further information about the operation of specialised police units, and any other issues that arise in relation to them.

Proposal 20–1 Each state and territory police force should ensure that:

  1. victims have access to a primary contact person within the police, who specialises and is trained in family violence issues;
  2. a police officer is designated as a primary point of contact for government and non-government agencies involved in responding to family violence;
  3. specially trained police have responsibility for supervising, monitoring or assuring the quality of police responses to family violence incidents, and providing advice and guidance to operational police and police prosecutors in this regard; and
  4. there is a central forum or unit responsible for policy and strategy concerning family violence within the police.

Question 20–1 What issues arise in practice concerning the role and operations of police who specialise in family violence matters?

[1] The role of specialised police in the context of sexual assault is discussed in Ch 17.