Racist stereotypes and profiling corrode trust and hinder policing

Urgent reform is needed to Victoria Police training and policies to end the harm caused by racial discrimination and deliver more efficient and effective policing.

During a community consultation process conducted by Victoria Police, the Human Rights Law Centre has discussed the harmful effects of racist practices within the force and highlighted benefits of human rights compliant policing practices.

Executive Director of the HRLC, Mr Hugh de Kretser, said racial profiling is when police use stereotypes based on race, rather than objective evidence or individual behaviour, as the basis for making policing decisions.

“Not only does racism cause damage to individuals but the use of racial stereotypes by Victoria Police is actually harming efforts to combat crime,” said Mr de Kretser.

Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre will tomorrow host Melbourne’s first People’s Hearing into Racism and Policing at 10am.

The CEO of Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, Anthony Kelly, said the event represents a unique opportunity for the people of Victoria to hear directly from the people most affected by racism in policing.

"Testimony from witnesses, victims and community representatives will be recorded and transcribed and a report summarising key findings will be submitted to government and to the Victorian Police Inquiry. The People's Hearing will identify the nature and extent of racial profiling by Victoria police and look for systemic changes to prevent it,” said Mr Kelly.

There are reports of “over-policing” of members of African-Australian communities that indicate that “race” is used in Victorian policing practices, either consciously or unconsciously, in a manner that is illegitimate and unnecessary.

Combined with overly racist incidents such as the “stubby holder” and email scandals in recent years, racism within Victoria Police members has led to a break down of trust between Victoria Police and the wider community.

“Victoria Police has a legal responsibility and moral duty to stamp out racism within its ranks, which includes tackling the practice of ‘racial profiling’, that causes harm to individuals and corrodes public confidence in our police force,” said Mr de Kretser.

“Studies have shown that racial profiling is ineffective and police are more likely to properly identify criminals where they do not use stereotypes and instead rely on intelligence, information or specific behaviour,” added Mr de Kretser.

Racial profiling occurs most often in police decisions about who to stop, question, search, and at times who to arrest. Evidence has shown that in a particular area in Melbourne, African males are 2.4 times in certain areas more likely to be stopped by police than other members of the public and yet are under-represented in crime statistics. 

The Human Rights Law Centre has joined with other organisations such as the Law Institute of Victoria, Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, in recommending that the Victoria Police trial the a ‘receipting policy’ and introduce targeted training packages. The ‘receipting policy’ would mean those stopped and searched by policy would be given a receipt that recorded the details and reason for the search.

 “Victoria Police should learn from experience in other jurisdictions and publicly report on stop and search data, introduce specific training to address unconscious racial bias in policing and pilot the issuing of receipts when conducting searches,” said Mr de Kretser.

A copy of the HRLC submission can be found here.

For more information on the Victoria Police community consultation please visit here