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Write a 2,000 word critical review on examples of ‘good practice’ concerning the police and how they engage and work with your selected group. Essay

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NSW Police’s Good Practice

In Relations With

Indigenous People


The New South Wales Police Force (NSW Police Force), which was previously known as New South Wales Police Service & New South Wales Police, is NSW’s primary law enforcement agency, run under joint command of the New South Wales Ministry for Police and Emergency Services and Government of New South Wales. The police are divided into eight LACs — Local Area Commands and spread over 500 local police stations. The police cover NSW’s population of 7 million people spread over an area of 801,600 square kilometres (New South Wales Police, nd). The police force was formally established under the Police Regulation Act, 1862, with its responsibility and authority formally vested in IGP — Inspector General of Police (Austlii.edu.au, 2014). The chief responsibilities of NSW Police include crime prevention, detection and investigation, promoting and monitoring road safety, maintain social order, coordinate and perform rescue and search operations, and take part in emergency management (New South Wales Police, nd).

Apart from this, the NSW Police also has a greater responsibility of looking into NSW’s Indigenous population, which is highest in NSW than anywhere else in Australia (NSW Police Force, 2013). According to 2006 census, NSW has had the highest population of Indigenous people at approximately 148,178 people, making them around 2 percent of the population in NSW and 29 percent of total population of Indigenous people in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008).

Of these, 77 percent live in NSW’s inner regional areas and major cities and 53 percent are nestled in the Sydney-Newcastle-Wollongong corridor (Healthstats.nsw.gov.au, nd). Of its whole Indigenous population 57 percent are of 24 years or age or younger, and the age structure of this population is dramatically changing towards increase in middle adulthood and young people because of lower life expectancy and increased fertility. By 2021, it is expected that the population of Indigenous people will witness an increase by 35 percent, holding a median age of twenty-one years (NSW Health, 2008).

Despite their low population percentage, juvenile offending and detention among Indigenous people has been 28 times more than non-Indigenous people according to a 2007 estimate (SCRGSP, 2009). In the decade following 2000 the rate of court appearances among Indigenous people here shot up by 24 percent and by 71 percent increase in juvenile detention. In 2007-2008 alone as many as 2,363 Indigenous people ended up in detention for such offences as assault, enter and disorderly conduct. In the same year, 48 percent of Indigenous people as against 21 percent non-Indigenous people were taken to the court in NSW (Richards, 2009).

NSW Police’s Foray into Good Practice

Despite this grim scenario, in which Indigenous people are seen as a disadvantaged group as commented by Australian Human Rights Commission too (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2014), NSW Police Force has been doing a constructive and positive role in providing Indigenous people with positive alternatives when they have been found offending. The police work in collaboration with many organisations outside of its ambit to provide Indigenous people with a range of recreational, sporting and other alternatives. This is particularly true of the Indigenous disadvantaged lot.

Police and Community Youth Clubs, popularly known as PCYCs, have been constituted to work with Juvenile Justice to provide what is known as «structured recreational activities» for Indigenous young people (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, 2010). This initiative is run along with homework assistance programme. Begun initially in the Mt Druitt area, this programme is expected to be implemented in other areas too following the success of its trial.

Police also work in tandem with youth justice conferences to explore further alternatives in this regard. This initiative is more focused on juvenile offenders who are brought face-to-face with the victims of their crimes and other support people in order to explore achievable and realistic outcomes. Under this initiative police gets instrumental in making both sides reach a mutually-agreeable outcome that, among many other alternatives for rehabilitation, also explores if the young Indigenous person can be inducted back into the community. Police play a major role in such cases to make these offenders accept their behaviour’s responsibility, strengthen families, provide support and development services, and enhance the interests and rights of the victims of Indigenous people crimes.

Similarly in 2009, a $1.4 million trial began in Mount Druitt Police Local Area Commands and Campbell town, New England, which was named as the The Youth Conduct Orders (YCO) (Legal Aid New South Wales, 2009). Under this programme it was seen if a young person’s antisocial and offending behaviour could be reduced by addressing the cause that generated it. The trial was expected to run for two years, following which its success was to be measured in terms of its effectiveness. The NSW Police saw this as a novel way of putting up young offenders on an YCO of up to 12 months even if these people had pleaded guilty, not pleaded guilty or actually found guilty. The only thing required was their consent to participate in this programme.

Another ‘good practice’ initiative initiated by the police has been Cannabis Cautioning Scheme, which focuses on minor cannabis offenders (Baker and Goh, 2004). Under this scheme police exert caution rather than initiate charge against these offenders. The caution is provided by offering them an option to consider its health and legal consequences and thus seek either support or go for treatment. Those who get first caution are subsequently encouraged to seek support from ADIS — Alcohol and Drug Information Service. If the offenders fail first caution, they are delivered a second one directing them to contact AIDS for a health education session telephonically. There, however, is no third caution (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2002a). Those who ignore the first two and continue to use cannabis are legally sent to court (Christie and Ali, 2000).

NSW Police is also playing an important role in changing its relationship with Indigenous people. A number of strategies have been implemented over the last few years and police structured such that its relations with these people are seen as having undergone a dynamic positive shift.

Over the last many years there has been a greater understanding that Indigenous people are the most socially, politically and economically disadvantaged Australian group. NSW police is showing in this regard as it has undergone a tremendous revamp by taking into consideration the causes of this disadvantage that have roots in such factors as housing, health, employment, education, social justice, cultural heritage, land rights and language access (Hunter and Borland, 1999). Police has also realised that in the past its relationship with Indigenous people has been very painful. However, not harping further on the past, the NSW Police has begun to implement its Indigenous-friendly measures in tacking this disadvantaged group. In 1994, the then police commissioner, Tony Lauer went public on his commitment to improve Indigenous people-police relationships in NSW. This followed soon after Australian Broadcasting Corporation screened a documentary named ‘Cop It Sweet’. The commitment soon began to be transformed into practice when the police implementing consultations with a number of agencies in NSW to bring about changes in the Indigenous peoples’ lives particularly in the following segments: education and training, employment, local patrol operational initiatives and communication (Australian Institute of Criminology, 1994).

Further work on these commitments led to the development of a NSW Police Strategic Plan with reference to Indigenous people. The plan laid down certain principles with regard to how police would deal with issues of Indigenous nature. Police was given a clear-cut directive that however variety of ways it might use to act, the actions must surround the ubiquitous fact that it is dealing with Indigenous people; the people who belong to the disadvantaged group. While working with the statement of values, it will provide such service that of is of relevant need to the Indigenous people.

While expecting a change in behaviour of Indigenous people, it must also demonstrate the same on its own. It must use such programmes on Indigenous people that attempt to uplift them and should take in their stride the historical nature of the Indigenous people and context of their relationship, both past and present, with the police. There should be an enhanced communication with Indigenous people, and the police should go the way out of their normal procedures to explore the possibility of conflict resolution than action on conflict. Its role should be pivotal in resolution of their problems and NSW police’s role as a Good Samaritan communicated to them.

The strategic plan also directed police think of crime, violence and fear among Indigenous people as only Indigenous problem but a mutual problem needs concerted address. The plan made the reduction in the representation of Indigenous people in the NSW criminal justice system as its focus; both as Indigenous [people entering it either as offenders or victims. In order to further strengthen this plan and make resolves appear in practice, the NSW designated five key areas through which it could measure results.

These included improved use of police discretion by the police, appropriate service provisions, training and education, communication and safety in custody. Full ranges of police services are now abundantly available to the Indigenous population in NSW. Most of these are the same needs that are already available to the wider community while they are also appropriately relevant to this group. The training and education as the key area has been established because NSW Police has found it of value to inculcate its cadres with the sound knowledge of Indigenous people’s understanding. This is considered as an important step as knowing the community will help police interact with it better. On the other hand the development of effective communication channels between both has been found as an important tool towards making communication understandable between both. The need for safety in custody has been realised because it was felt that the members of the Indigenous community detained must feel secure and the environment in which they are put up meets this community’s confidence and expectations. NSW Police feel that on date it has to exhibit duty of care towards this group which is very much a part of the Australian social fabric.

In order to measure improvements, this strategic plan was subjected to an audit in 2002 and 14 LACs were selected to conduct the assessment. The audit team included a Deputy or an Assistant Ombudsman, Aboriginal Complaints Unit members, a senior researcher and a Police Team Manager. The audit team reported that NSW police was actively involved with Indigenous communities and initiatives undertaken previously had begun to show positive impact.

There was also a remarked organisational change as significant improvements were found in all commands visited. Police had been implemented to reduce youth offending and long-term measures had been taken to work continually on steps initiated to sustain the objectives set in 1994. There was a genuine community partnership and impressive police leadership. A «before-and-after» comparative was done and it was found that earlier response times on issues pertaining to Indigenous community were long and after these changes these had drastically reduced and were quick. This was attributed to effective and regular communication between the two sides and is being hailed as a major breakthrough in what seemed a deadlock earlier.

In all NSW Police’s positive practice with regard to the Indigenous people is seen as deriving its strength from its restorative approach, which goes a long way in developing trust among this group, improving their public security and social order. Clearly, these initiatives have created positive pathways and an environment that is building up to nurture a positive police-people relationship. The NSW Police is now working on a consultative process on Indigenous people that is three-tiered and a part of strategic direction plan envisioned for 2012-2017 (New South Wales Police, 2012).


NSW Police has been into positive practice in connection with Indigenous population of New South Wales as it has realised the importance and necessity of working in partnership with this disadvantaged group. In this initiative many complexities have been overcome and positive results have begun to show, though that is not to say challenges lying ahead are not enormous. This is a question of clashing of new and old beliefs and values and the overall environment in which they thrive. This positive practice of NSW Police is expected to go far enough to bring about suitable and most desired changes in the Indigenous population of New South Wales.


Australian Institute of Criminology. (1994). Conference: Aboriginal Justice Issues II. Problem Solving in Aboriginal Communities Through Effective Structural Change. Available: http://www.aic.gov.au/media_library/conferences/1994-aboriginal/mclachlan.pdf. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Australian Human Rights Commission . (2014). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice. Available: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2002a). Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services in NSW, Findings from the National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) 2000-01, Drug Treatment Data Briefing no. 1, AIHW, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (No 4704). Canberra, 2008.

Austlii.edu.au. (2014). New South Wales Consolidated Acts. Available: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act//. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Baker, J and Goh, D. (2004). The Cannabis Cautioning Scheme Three Years On: An Implementation and Outcome Evaluation. Available: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/agdbasev7wr/bocsar/documents/pdf/r54.pdf. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Christie, P. & Ali, R. (2000). Offences under the Cannabis Expiation Notice scheme in South Australia, Drug and Alcohol Review, vol. 19, pp. 251-256.

Healthstats.nsw.gov.au. (nd). Aboriginal population by Local Government Area, NSW, 2011. Available: http://www.healthstats.nsw.gov.au/Indicator/atsi_popatsi_lgamap/atsi_popatsi_lgamap. Accessed May 05, 2014.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. (2010). Inquiry into the high levels of involvement of Indigenous juveniles and young adults in the criminal justice system. Available: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=atsia/sentencing/report.htm. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Hunter, B. & Borland, J. (1999) The effect of arrest on Indigenous employment prospects’. Crime and Justice Bulletin, no. 45, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney.

Legal Aid New South Wales (2009). Youth Conduct Orders: A Guide for Practitioners. Available: http://lacextra.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/PublicationsResourcesService/PublicationImprints/Files/141.pdf. Accessed May 05, 2014.

NSW Health. (2008). The Health of the People of New South Wales, Report of the Chief Health Officer, NSW Health 2008 Available: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/publichealth/chorep/atsi/atsi pop agesex_atsi.asp. Accessed May 05, 2014.

New South Wales Police (2012). Aboriginal strategic direction 2012-2017 / NSW Police. Available: http://www.indigenousjustice.gov.au/db/publications/293703.html. Accessed May 05, 2014.

New South Wales Police. (nd). About Us. Available: http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/about_us. Accessed May 05, 2014.

NSW Police Force (2013). Youth Strategy 2013-2014. Available: http://www.police.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/277054/NSWPF_Youth_Strategy_2013-2017.pdf. Accessed May 05, 2014.

Richards, K, (2009). Juveniles’ contact with the criminal justice system in Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology, p27, p41.

Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP). (2009). Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantages: Key Indicators 2009, Productivity Commission, 2009, Government of Australia.