Complaints against the New South Wales Police Force: Analysis of risks and rights in reported police conduct

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Alan Beckley, Melissa Martin

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2 Citations (Scopus)
133 Downloads (Pure)


Citizens subjected to wrongful arrest, incivility or other police misbehaviour need access to a sound and objective system for making complaints about police conduct that infringes their fundamental human rights. This qualitative empirical study examined human rights violations in a sample of customer complaints against police. Descriptions by 91 legal practitioners and client advocates of events culminating in a formal complaint against the New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) were systematically coded to identify the types of police behaviours that led to complaints, the nature and extent of human rights violations, if and the degree of legal risk exposure to the NSWPF in the reported conduct. The majority of the complaints resulted from police inaction (30%) or unlawful behaviour (25%), and involved moderately high or high-risk behaviours exposing the police to potential legal liability, and diminishing police legitimacy. The reported police conduct was not trivial and impinged upon multiple rights of citizens, particularly the right to security of person and equality before the law. Increased awareness of human rights issues implicated in community complaints and the potential for costly litigation will assist in police in responding more effectively to complaints and enhance community confidence in police.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-105
Number of pages25
JournalAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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