As police, we know too well the impacts that being a victim of crime can have. For many, it can be a confronting and traumatic experience that results in statements being taken, a police investigation and ideally an offender or offenders before the courts.
For others – some of the most vulnerable members of our society – it’s an experience that goes unreported and unnoticed by those around them including their families, support services and police.
A 2015 parliamentary inquiry shone a light on the abuse of people living in disability services. Public hearings were held and a broad range of submissions from individuals, service providers, academics and advocates were collected.
The findings were confronting, identifying a lack of safeguards and oversights within the very system designed to assist and protect those who need it most.
Victoria Police welcomed the Inquiry recommendations.
We acknowledged more could be done to strengthen and improve the way we worked with other agencies to better manage investigations, promote complaint resolution and increase organisational learning.
Today, Victoria Police and the Disability Services Commissioner released an inaugural protocol for the investigation of abuse and neglect, which includes a clear process for the two organisations to work together to investigate complaints and allegations of abuse.
It’s been a monumental piece of work that gives us a clear process for sharing information, collaborative investigative processes, training and knowledge to inform both criminal and non-criminal investigations.
We accept and recognise that we haven’t always got it right.
We know there are victims of abuse who have not received the support or justice they deserve.
There are cases where we simply didn’t investigate.
But we are now better placed than ever to ensure that people with disability receive the same access to the justice system as the rest of the community.
Beyond the Inquiry’s recommendations, Victoria Police has been undertaking a considerable amount of work to improve its services to people with disability across the board.
The training of our members is paramount. Our Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) detectives now receive specialist training which better enables them to work with victims with disability.
The Victoria Police Accessibility Action Plan 2014-2017 provided an opportunity for us to review our practices, policies and training to improve the outcomes for people with disabilities when coming into contact with police.
As a result we’ve enhanced the training and education for police members to include disability information in foundation and development training. We’ve expanded our suite of external resources to provide more accessible information to community members on reporting crime and making complaints. We’ve also continued to explore the issues associated with data collection to better understand how people with disability are affected by crime.
Our Disability Portfolio Reference Group – consisting of stakeholder and peak body leaders – meets quarterly to discuss projects and policies to deliver on the needs of people with a disability.
They hold us accountable and we expect them to do so.
All of these steps are making Victoria Police more accessible, supportive and responsive to people with disability, be they a victim of crime, a witness, a suspect, a person in custody or a person in need of assistance.
At the end of the day, dignity and respect is central to what we do.
Our members are focused on finding the truth and supporting victims.
We are absolutely committed to ensuring the abuse of people in disability services is no longer overlooked, dismissed or swept under the rug.
This message is from Acting Commander, Tony Silva - Priority Communities Division.
Reviewed 28 February 2019