EXCLUSIVE: The NT Government could be forced to pay millions in damages and every criminal court case over the past few years could be called into question after revelations the NT police college was using unqualified instructors and allowed new recruits on the beat before they could be properly assessed, a national civil rights organisation says.
Civil Liberties Australia said it was concerned the NT Police executive was not providing proper training for its officers at the police college and that every day that goes by without the matter being addressed by the government “increases the quantum of the culpability and the potential financial liability and damages”.
“If new police officers are let loose in the Northern Territory with inadequate and/or uncertified training, they are unfit to do their jobs,” Civil Liberties Australia president Bill Rowlings told the NT Independent.
“If, as apparently alleged in an audit, firearm training has been carried out by unqualified certifiers, the right of NT police officers to carry weapons and to fire them is questionable.
“Only people properly certified, police officers included, have the right to bear and use firearms; that’s the law.”
The NT Independent revealed that the police college had failed to meet national Australian Skills Quality Authority standards after a 2017 audit found the college had used unqualified instructors, failed to keep proper records of cadet training and could not determine who its managers were or if they were “fit and proper” people.
The audit also found recruits were graduated despite failing basic literacy and numeracy tests and that cadets had already taken courses before the college knew they were even enrolled.
A 2019 internal police memo, revealed this week, showed the college had failed to address the major issues two years later and that the executive committee had warned of the “significant risks” of putting police on the beat before they had been assessed for competency.
‘In the case of police, proper training is crucial’: Civil Liberties Australia
Mr Rowlings said the serious issues raised in the reports could lead to the government being held responsible and payouts of millions of dollars.
“If a person has died at the hands of an NT Police officer who was not certified to carry and fire the weapon used – handgun, rifle or stun gun – then the NT Government as employer will be up for massive damages claims running into multi-millions of dollars,” he said.
“Every court case of the past few years decided on evidence recorded and given by police may be called into question if, in fact, the ‘police’ were not real police in that they lacked the required qualifications.”
Police Minister Nicole Manison and Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker have refused to address the police college scandal, including answering the NT Independent’s questions about what they are doing to fix the current situation.
Ms Manison and Chief Minister Michael Gunner have repeatedly spoken about new police recruits coming into the force as part of their commitment to reduce crime, but have refused to comment on their lack of training and the use of unqualified instructors at the college.
Both refused to comment on the possibility of legal action, damages and the potential for court cases to be overturned due to their inaction.
“The Chief Minister, the Police Minister and the Police Commissioner must answer detailed questions immediately on this matter,” Mr Rowlings said.
“They are possibly leaving the Territory – that is, the taxpayers – with huge potential liabilities.
“If something has not been done correctly in the past, every day that goes by without government correction increases the quantum of the culpability and the potential financial liability and damages.”