The former Queensland police commissioner Ian Stewart has called for a parliamentary inquiry into controversial findings by the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission that police recruitment practices discriminated against men.
The controversial CCC report, released on Wednesday, found 200 men had missed out on joining the Queensland police force because recruiters had favoured women in order to try to meet a 50/50 gender strategy.
Stewart, who was the commissioner who announced the 50% recruitment targets for women in 2016, called for an “immediate inquiry” after the CCC’s findings were called into question by Queensland’s human rights commissioner, Scott McDougall.
McDougall told The Australian newspaper on Saturday he had concerns about the CCC report and believed the recruitment of women was critically important given the need to improve responses to domestic violence.
He also called into question a key justification of the CCC for undertaking the two-year investigation and report – that police had not sought an exemption to the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act to use recruitment practices that favoured women.
“The CCC report shouldn’t undermine the legitimacy and lawfulness of equal opportunity measures, which are protected by [the act] without needing to apply for an exemption,” McDougall told the Australian.
“While applying for an exemption may have been desirable, the absence of an application doesn’t necessarily mean that QPS engaged in unlawful discrimination.
“The suggestion by the chairman of the CCC that the failure to apply for an exemption amounted to unlawful discrimination would therefore appear to be incorrect.”
After reading McDougall’s comments to the Australian, Stewart said the “fundamental premise” of the CCC investigation had been challenged as erroneous.
“I am hopeful that this revelation will result in an immediate inquiry by the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee [the body with formal oversight of the CCC] into how the systems of our pre-eminent oversight agency may have made such a mistake,” he told Guardian Australia on Saturday.
“The damage to credibility of the entire Queensland police service and to the reputations of some individuals has been significant as a result of this report. I trust accountable individuals will address this issue as a matter of priority.
“I continue to strongly believe that the community supports and wants a more diverse and inclusive model of policing. Government policies and the law in Queensland, properly considered, supports this vision.”
The CCC’s report found that in some cases ineligible women had been selected over male applicants who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments.
It also found that the police recruiting section used misleading, deceptive and false reporting practices about recruitment. Three recruitment staff have been suspended as a result with the current police commissioner labelling the findings as “completely disappointing”.
The CCC has been contacted for comment.
The report has sparked questions about why the anti-corruption body would undertake such a major investigation – which included 43 interviews and 10 witnesses being examined in secret hearings – into a program with the non-sinister aim of recruiting more women and diversifying the force.
The CCC otherwise overwhelmingly sends police misconduct complaints back to the police for investigation. Recent criticism suggests the corruption watchdog has lost sharp focus of public sector misconduct.
Academic studies into policing domestic violence have found the gender imbalance within policing needs to be addressed.