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Police set for showdown over ICAC stoush

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Simmering tensions between police and the state’s anti-corruption watchdog could be set to explode with SAPOL commissioner Grant Stevens due to front a parliamentary committee just days after ICAC Commissioner Bruce Lander used the same forum to question whether his organisation was acting within its authority.

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Lander last week fronted the Crime and Public Integrity Review Committee, questioning the way SAPOL handles its management resolution processes.

InDaily has confirmed that Stevens will appear before the same committee on Monday, with police saying “there will be no preliminary comments made in relation to his appearance”.

The Independent Commissioner Against Corruption last week noted police matters “that have been assessed as raising a potential issue of corruption, or raise some other issue that should be referred to the Office of Public Integrity, must be referred to the OPI and may be investigated by the ICAC”.

“The other matters that have been assessed as raising potential issues of misconduct or maladministration can be dealt with in one of two ways: by management resolution; or be the subject to investigation by the Internal Investigations Section,” he told parliament.

“The matters that are to be dealt with by the management resolution are those matters that the Commissioner of Police determined should be dealt with in that way.”

Lander said if a matter was not assessed as raising a potential issue of misconduct or maladministration it did not fall under the Police Complaints and Discipline Act, and “insofar as SAPOL purports to exercise powers under the PCD Act if a matter is not so assessed, in my opinion SAPOL is acting without any statutory authority”.

“Management resolution is reserved for those matters that have been assessed as raising a potential issue of misconduct or maladministration, which the Commissioner of Police should deal with by way of management resolution and for no other matters,” he said.

Lander’s comments would likely have inflamed an already uneasy relationship, which was highlighted by Stevens’ recent submission to the committee, in which he lamented an explosion of complaints against police, since the removal of the Police Ombudsman in 2017.

“Arguably the increase in complaints has not contributed to any improvement from the previous reporting system… it has however significantly increased SAPOL’s workload,” he wrote.

He also blamed the commencement of the Office of Public Integrity, which Lander oversees, and “the enthusiasm in which they receive and dispatch complaints, adding to them along the way”.

“With the entry of the ICAC and the resources allocated to it, it was assumed the workload of the anti-corruption branch would diminish as the ICAC took over the remit for significant investigations the branch had held until that time,” Stevens wrote in his submission.

“This has not proven to be the case.”

Stevens pointedly refused to endorse the ICAC in an ABC radio interview this week, in which he was asked whether the anti-corruption body had worked.

“We’ve provided some advice in relation to the framework the ICAC operates in, but this is not the forum for me to be talking about the advice we provided,” he said.

“As with anything we think there’s an opportunity for improvement so we’re making those recommendations.”

Asked again whether he believed the ICAC had worked, he said: “It’s not for me to comment whether we should have an ICAC or not… we have an ICAC, that’s a reality.”

Asked if it was worth the money spent on its operation, he said: “It’s not for me to comment.”

Further asked if he could identify any successes from ICAC’s operation, he said: “I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but I certainly haven’t done any research in preparation for this…”

Asked if he would be addressing Lander’s comments to the committee that SAPOL is acting without Statutory Authority in its use of management resolution, a police spokesman said: “The Commissioner is appearing on Monday and there will be no preliminary comments made in relation to his appearance.”

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