Thursday, 05 April 2018 09:00

Victoria Police has a duty to uphold human rights: use of excessive force is unacceptable

The Commission is alarmed by recent reports and footage of Victoria Police officers appearing to use excessive force and cruel and degrading treatment.

All alleged incidents of police brutality must be followed by prompt, effective and impartial investigation to ensure accountability for any police misconduct and to reveal where reform is needed to uphold human rights in policing. 

Put simply it’s about treating people fairly and ensuring individual rights are respected across Victoria.

A fundamental purpose of policing is the protection and vindication of the human rights of every citizen.

Equally, Victoria Police is required under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to protect human rights in the exercise of its duty. Human rights in Victoria are protected by preventing breaches in the first place. The Charter ensures public authorities are aware of their obligations.

Consistent with the rights of all people to be free from cruel and degrading treatment and to be provided with effective protection from discriminatory treatment because of their race, age, sex, disability, sexuality or any other attribute, Victoria Police must always treat people with fairness, respect and dignity.

To fulfil their duties, police have the power to deprive people of their liberty and use force to uphold the law. These powers attach significant responsibilities to act in accordance with the law.

Police officers play a vital role in making the community safer. Footage of police appearing to use excessive force or condoning such behaviour undermines community confidence in their ability to protect the community.

Treating everyone with respect and dignity regardless of their background is not just good police practice or 'nice' to do, it's the law.

Where powers are potentially misused or human rights are not upheld, there must be a prompt, effective and impartial investigation. Where there are allegations of serious human rights abuses, international human rights standards demand that the investigation is by an independent body.

In Victoria the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) currently has responsibility for ensuring that police officers have regard to human rights in the Charter, and it can investigate and receive complaints about allegations of excessive force, racism or other mistreatment in breach of human rights.

A number of submissions to the current parliamentary inquiry into IBAC’s police oversight role highlights flaws in the current system which have led to independent investigations not occurring where they should.

The alarming footage and allegations that have emerged reinforce how crucial it is for the Victorian Government to consider what changes are needed to ensure that there is strong independent police oversight with the requisite capacity and expertise to investigate serious human rights abuses.

This statement can be attributed to Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton.

Media contact

Peter Davies
0447 526 642
Email: [email protected] 

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