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Review exposes 'boys club' at SA Police

AAP logoAAP 12/12/2016 Marnie Banger

Sex discrimination and sexual harassment are commonplace at South Australia Police, with many staff believing it to be a "boys club", a review has revealed.

The Equal Opportunity Commission of SA review, commissioned by SAPOL, found 45 per cent of roughly 2000 current and former staff surveyed had experienced sex discrimination at the organisation.

And more than a third, 36 per cent, had experienced sexual harassment, with women more likely than men to bear the brunt of both kinds of behaviour.

The commission says the level of harassment at SAPOL is similar to that in the general Australian workforce but there has been more "predatory" behaviour where authority or influence has been misused to exploit others.

© SA Police Nearly half of the group surveyed, 49 per cent, had reported predatory behaviour compared with 28 per cent in the broader workforce.

"SAPOL was often referred to as a boys club and women reported being regularly put down in relation to their gender," Equal Opportunity Commissioner Niki Vincent told reporters on Monday.

SA Police Commission Grant Stevens said he had expected to learn of some discrimination and harassment but was "very disappointed" by the predatory behaviour.

"I'm ashamed that people within this organisation have had to experience that," he said.

"I unreservedly apologise to those people who have been victims of this type of behaviour and I'm giving my personal commitment to ensure that we do what we can to change the culture."

He said the organisation has accepted all 38 recommendations made by the commission and Assistant Commissioner Bryan Fahy has been taken "offline" to lead a team that will ensure they are implemented.

Among the recommendations is more training for SAPOL staff on sex discrimination and harassment, more flexible work options, and improving how the organisation handles complaints.

Dr Vincent said the complaints system was viewed as slow, ineffective and not transparent, leading to many incidents going unreported.

"People feel victimised all over again. Not just by the complaint processes but by it being not confidential and other people finding out, and their workmates victimising them," she said.

Mr Stevens said SAPOL has created a Safe Space program for people who want to come forward and report incidents.

It has also started a Restorative Engagement program to allow people who have been harmed previously to safely share their story with senior staff.

"We're prepared to listen to these stories and to truly understand what people have experienced so we can acknowledge that and take that big step forward in the right direction," he said.

He said people in the organisation would see some change right away but shifting SAPOL's culture would take long-term persistence and resilience.

"It will be on the shoulders of every South Australia Police employee to understand the pathway we're on and this will not be an overnight fix," he said.

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