The QPS has brought the culture of denial to a fine art – greatly helped by the Police Union.
This has been clear throughout the sorry saga of the inquiry into the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee in November 2004.
It was probably clear during the first Inquest in 2005 and it was very obvious during the Second Inquest, which I attended. My notes record my amazement at the litany of inadequate inquiries, police investigating their friends, superior officers not asking for timely reports. Meanwhile the Commissioner continued his public statements that he had ‘full confidence’ in his officers. I never heard that he wanted to get the truth of what happened – nor that he wanted justice for the Doomadgee family.
This March I attended the third Inquest and the shameful twists, and changed statements (some surely are perjury) the collusion, the misguided loyalty continued. Again the Commissioner was still confident in his officers .
On 14th June the CMC report was published and Chair Martin Moynihan clearly identified the Commissioner, Bob Atkinson as the person responsible for the Queensland Police Service. He is therefore responsible, during his ten year stint as Commissioner, for the growth of the culture of denial, of frequent refusals to admit to faults, of the QPS's self-protecting attitude.
If I had not sat through two of the three inquests I would not be so confident that my opinion is valid. But I saw and heard police officers repeatedly stating that they knew something happened in a particular way, not because they saw it happen but because Sn Sgt Hurley, told them so and that is good enough for them. However, when an Palm Island man says that he saw and heard something happen, that is not believable because it reflects badly on Hurley.
What does Bob Atkinson do after the clear evidence of the coronial inquiries and the CMC report? He continues to deny the problem exists. He says that everything is better now.
Everything cannot get better until the truth of what happened in 2004 at the Palm Island watch house is established as clearly as is now possible. That includes the question of collusion amongst certain officers, and the possibility of 'lying' to the inquest - which I believe is the same as perjury and therefore a very serious offence.
I would like Commissioner Bob Atkinson to bite the bullet and effectively discipline the few police officers who have not done the right thing. He should acknowledge that there have been faults and say how he has dealt with them.
If he does this he will strengthen the many police officers who work tirelessly and fairly for all of us.
So do the right thing Commissioner. Show us that you are capable of turning round the corrosive culture of denial in the Queensland Police Service.