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This paper revisits the Wood Royal Commission report, examines the current system of police accountability in NSW, and discusses the many reviews of the system that have taken place over the past decade.
The importance of having a system of external oversight of police conduct was highlighted by the Wood Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service in the mid-1990s. The external oversight model that has been in place in NSW since that time has involved two key agencies: the NSW Ombudsman, which primarily oversees the way in which NSW Police deals with complaints, and the Police Integrity Commission, which investigates serious police misconduct as well as overseeing the way in which other agencies investigate such misconduct.
In recent times, the effectiveness of this system has been called into question. In February 2015, a Legislative Council Select Committee report referred to “dysfunction” within the system and recommended that a further committee inquiry be held on reforming the system, “with a view to establishing a single, well-resourced police oversight body”. The NSW Government has since appointed former Shadow Attorney-General, Andrew Tink, to review the police oversight system, including examining options for a single civilian oversight model. The terms of reference for the review were released on 21 May and Mr Tink has been asked to report by 31 August 2015.
This paper revisits the Wood Royal Commission report, examines the current system in NSW, and discusses the many reviews of the system that have taken place over the past decade. It also outlines the police oversight models in other Australian jurisdictions and in the United Kingdom. In summary: