30th January 2020

The Productivity Commission has released new data showing 32.9 Police staff are female, just 1.2% below the national average. We assume they refer to sworn Police members rather than the total staff of Victoria Police because that figure would then be different. Additionally, the number of females sexually harassed during their career is one in four.

Former Chief Commissioner Ken Lay even went as far as subcontracting out the management issues relating to sexual harassment of female members to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission  (VEOHRC) rather than address the problem, and to date that would seem to be another waste of time and resources.

A basic premise of management is you cannot subcontract out your responsibilities as Lay tried to do, it never works well.

The VEOHRC is finally concluding its work after seven years without a lot to show for the effort, as the problem allegedly is still there. We, therefore mark this effort down as a fail.

The major problem with this assessment of Victoria Police is the blurring of lines of the two objectives and too many executives trying to be more woke than everybody else. Female recruiting numbers and sexual harassment are two different things and unrelated. More or less female recruits will not impact on the harassment issue.

While we assume most sexual harassment is male on female, it is not exclusively, so broad-brush statistics carry little weight.

VicPol has lowered standards in an effort to attract more females, and this practice must stop. It is not only dangerous to the applicant but also demeaning to the applicant.

To employ a person who does not meet a physical standard required to perform a task is irresponsible of the employer and leaves open the prospect of litigation by a person employed when they are injured physically or mentally because they cannot adequately perform the function of policing.

Police management chasing some nebulous gender quota is not the fault of those who have been accepted at a lower standard unable to do the work.

The allegation that one in four females have been sexually harassed during their career is very concerning and a different issue altogether from gender quotas. Although we do caution that these raw figures do not provide comparative data from other organisations, all be it that any sexual harassment is unacceptable in a professional workplace.

It is very concerning that VicPol is only employing, promoting and retaining leaders who, “Demonstrate a commitment to gender equality”.

That should only be one of the criteria, and all these woke phases are of no value while the managers promoted are not accountable with measurable, meaningful management targets set against appropriate Key Performance Indicators.

A good manager will stamp out any harassment, but they need to be good in all aspects of their responsibilities to gain the respect of all staff and provide leadership by example. A manger hopeless at leadership but strong on harassment will not achieve anything other than chasing perpetrators identified responsible for sexual harassment, not preventing the problem in the first place, which should be the priority. Ask any victim whether they would have rathered prevention than an investigation post-event.

These issues are one of the symptoms of failed management practices.

To fix VicPol, they need to start at the top and address the behaviours of the senior executive who have been subject to rumour and allegations of impropriety over recent years. Good leaders are rarely subject to an adverse rumour.

The CAA fully supports the function and responsibility of VicPol to provide a workplace that respects all and deplores any activities that are unfairly negative towards any person within, or outside the organisation based on gender, ethnicity etc. Deliberate sexual harassment is particularly repugnant.

The weight of this research by the Productivity Commission on gender representation fails to acknowledge that we are dealing with people and not mathematical equations.

It may not have occurred to those responsible for this data that many women are just not attracted to Policing.

Irrespective what backroom bureaucrats may think, policing as a career involves the prospect of getting regularly abused, belted or shot at, dealing with deceased persons, attending horrific incidents, facing violent demonstrators, and frenetic victims and is something the bureaucrats would not have the first clue about. Working Night Shifts and working weekends, dealing daily with the dregs of society is not an appealing prospect for many females, and for that matter, some men.

The same phenomena that cause the gender imbalances in Policing are replicated in Teaching, Nursing and other caring professions, not to mention Politics, and for that matter, the vast majority of professions in the community.

Victoria Police is the largest in Australia has 32.4% female while as a percentage of the overall number it is 1.2% lower than the national average however actual numbers of female employees may show Victoria actually employs more females than every other Police force. It is time for the critics to get off VicPol’s case on this issue.

Next step will be a push for conscription to meet quotas because that is the only way the numbers to satisfy the critics will be achieved as evident in every other Police force in Australia.

Making an Albatross out of equality will have unintended consequences.