16th November 2023

The Victoria Police ‘Prior History Guidelines’ published on their recruiting website https://www.police.vic.gov.au/police-entry-requirements raises considerable doubts about the integrity of the Police in this State.

The guidelines are an exhaustive list of offences that a person can be convicted of and still be recruited. This list will shock many.

Albeit that there are exclusion periods attached to each conviction. It is wrong on so many counts.

Not the least the lack of empathy extended to victims who may be confronted with their perpetrator in Police uniform.

Five or ten years may seem like a long time, but to the victims, their pain can be an eternity.

Simply having an arbitrary exclusion period does not mean that the applicant does not still hold a biased disposition to the values they held when committing the crime.

At best, it only determines that during the exclusion period, they have not been caught, not that they didn’t continue to offend.

The application of this policy, which has been in place prior to the appointment of the current Chief Commissioner, may go some way to explaining the difficulty in securing and retaining staff and the lack of confidence that has evolved in policing generally.

Police were once looked up to as pillars of society; this policy trashes that notion.

It allows people with pre-dispositions, attitudes and values not consistent with the high integrity expected by police to negatively influence the culture of the organisation.

Amongst a raft of offences, it is possible that the police member attending to investigate your issue has been previously convicted of that same offence and could have served jail time for that indiscretion.

Irrespective of time elapsed, that police member will have a disposition that may be counterproductive to good policing and affect their judgement. It would definitely not instil confidence in victims that this possibility exists.

Not too many people would be pleased that a convicted felon is the police member dealing with their issue. The principle of ‘set a thief to catch a thief’, is a principle that is unacceptable by any measure in policing.

An example of offences that applicants to VicPol can be convicted of and still be approved to join the police Force,

‘Theft, deception, criminal damage, serious assault, or other serious offences.

Dishonesty, assault, property damage or any offence against an emergency services worker, trafficking, possession or using illicit or illegal drugs.

Driving in a manner or speed dangerous, DUI, drug-impaired driving including refusing to undergo an assessment or refusing to comply with the requirements of testing,’

Surprisingly, the list also includes Insolvency with a five-year exclusion period. This shows scant knowledge of the realities of business. We have just come through and are still feeling the effects in the corporate sector of the COVID pandemic and now fiscal headwinds with Government policy responsible for many insolvencies, not poor character by directors.

Many businesses face insolvency through no fault of the Directors.

This policy is counterintuitive, discouraging these people, who are generally highly skilled people of very good character, from the Police Force.

Probably the most inane offence is the inclusion of ‘any offence against an emergency services worker.’ What sort of ‘numb nut’ would include the possibility of approving an application of somebody who has been convicted of belting a Police or emergency services worker?

It may be that this list is moot because it will conflict with the new legislation for Spent convictions. A person whose criminal offending has been ‘Spent’ will not be required to disclose the prior conviction in the first place. Unless Victoria police have secured an exemption, it will mean that they will not have to disclose spent prior convictions irrespective of Police policy, which says they must.

The number of people who are accepted into the Force with prior convictions for any crime, let alone serious offences, is irrelevant.

That they can be accepted is the issue that undermines the integrity of all Police and the Force generally, community confidence and the culture of Victoria police.

It is incumbent on the Chief Commissioner to rescind this Policy and require the Government to provide an exception to police on the issue of Spent Convictions.

Integrity is the cornerstone of effective policing, if not it should be.