Police respond to crime data audit report

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has acknowledged the finalisation of the Queensland Audit Office (QAO) performance audit on criminal justice data.

The QAO’s findings were tabled for consideration by Parliament today and identify some procedural and process anomalies relating to the police statistical collection procedures.

There are three key themes with implications for the Queensland Police Service (QPS) arising from the report. They are:

• A lack of appropriate quality controls leading to incomplete and inaccurate records;
• Insufficient measures and controls relating to the finalisation of crime reports as ‘unfounded, withdrawn or bar to prosecution’; and
• A need for more effective integration of criminal justice data across justice entities.

The QAO also made three specific recommendations for the Queensland Police Service relating to offence standards and classification guidelines, data quality assurance processes and staff training.

Commissioner Stewart said the QPS supported the recommendations and work was already underway to address the issues that had been identified.

“As soon as the QPS became aware of the issues concerning the finalisation of crime reports in mid-January, we began a detailed and comprehensive audit of almost 60,000 records which had been classified as unfounded or withdrawn between 1 November 2015 and 26 January 2017,” Commissioner Stewart said.

Unfounded crime reports are not included in official crime statistics, as there is no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to indicate the incident actually occurred.

“On average we found that, 9.4% of the reports finalised in this manner had been incorrectly classified. However, expressed as a percentage of total occurrences for reportable offences during that period, the rate is very low at approximately 1.1%,” Commissioner Stewart said.

“All of the anomalies identified during that audit have been corrected.

“A detailed investigation into the finalisation of crime reports specifically on the Gold Coast was also undertaken by the Ethical Standards Command. No systemic inappropriate behaviour was detected.

“A number of measures have or are being put into place to validate the more problematic classifications of unfounded, withdrawn and bar to prosecution.

“For example, crime managers will be required to validate each of those classifications. In addition, the Ethical Standards Command have broadened their inspections regime to include sampling of finalised crime reports.

“Work has also begun on improvements to our governance and quality assurance systems aimed at improving crime reporting quality and accuracy.”

Other strategies to correct the issues identified include:

• A review of Policelink and QPRIME system documentation to clarify/simplify crime data collection and recording processes;
• Providing additional training and development to relevant personnel regarding the practical application of national standards; and
• Implementation of a revised quality assurance framework for the management of criminal justice data;

“Crime statistics are an important tool that the QPS uses in allocating resources, developing crime prevention strategies and ultimately in approaching government for funding. It is in our interests that they are accurate and reflective of the current crime rate in Queensland,” Commissioner Stewart said.

“To intentionally do otherwise would be counter-productive and goes against everything the Service stands for as an ethical and accountable law enforcement organisation.

“I would like to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by both the QAO and QPS personnel throughout the Service in relation to this thorough and comprehensive review.”

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