The New South Wales police force’s defensive and sometimes adversarial approach to an 18-month inquiry into LGBTQ+ hate-related deaths has come under scrutiny. Peter Gray SC, the senior counsel assisting the commission, raised concerns about the attitude of the NSW police during his final address to the inquiry led by Justice John Sackar.
Inquiry Scope and Findings
The state inquiry investigated unsolved killings of LGBTQ+ individuals between 1970 and 2010, focusing on whether police bias affected case investigations. Gray suggested that 14 of the 22 unsolved deaths reviewed were homicides, with six others suspected as such. All 20 cases involved potential anti-LGBTQ+ bias.
Recommendations and Police Practices
Gray proposed recommendations relating to investigative practices, some of which have already been adopted by the NSW police. These include a systematic review of unsolved homicide cases and reevaluation of procedures within the unsolved homicide team. Additional training for police officers concerning the LGBTQ+ community, developed with input from representatives and advocacy groups, was also recommended.
Inquiry’s Challenges and Police Cooperation
The hearings highlighted challenges such as poor police record-keeping, with evidence often lost or misplaced over the years. Despite substantial assistance provided by the police, Gray noted issues including document production delays and lack of reflection on negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people within the police force.
Missed Opportunity for Police and Community Relations
Gray pointed out that the police’s actions throughout the inquiry did not always align with their public support for it, potentially missing an opportunity to improve relations with the LGBTQ+ community. He emphasized the inquiry as a chance for the police to cooperate with the community to ensure a better future.
Positive Response from NSW Police
An encouraging letter from the NSW police indicated readiness to consider the final report. NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb acknowledged the historical failure of the police to adequately respond to violence and discrimination against the LGBTQI community.
Justice John Sackar underscored the fundamental issue at stake: hatred and prejudice against any person based on their identity is against civilized society’s values.
A final report from the inquiry is due by 14 December, with the hope that it will contribute to a more positive outcome and improved relations between the NSW police and the LGBTQ+ community. The inquiry represents not just a review of past cases, but an opportunity for systemic change and greater understanding within law enforcement regarding LGBTQ+ issues.