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Senior police will apologise and offer compensation to staff sexually harassed and assaulted by fellow officers after an independent investigation uncovered hundreds of cases where victims were too frightened to complain.
The damning Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report to be released on Wednesday found Victoria Police has a culture of cover up, acted unlawfully and is riddled with unreported sexual discrimination and harassment cases.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has promised to implement the commission's 21 recommendations that will result in the biggest structural changes in the police force in more than 40 years.
As part of the investigation nearly 500 responders to a confidential survey said they had been sexually harassed by colleagues in the past five years, with a small number (less that 10) saying they were victims of assault, including rape and attempted rape.
"Of extreme concern was the number of people who reported thoughts of suicide," the inquiry found.
The harassment includes sexually suggestive comments, unwelcomed physical contact, leering, indecent exposure, repeated advances, abuse of social media and requests for sex. Some victims reported assaults inside stations and police cars, with one threatening to use pepper spray to protect herself from a colleague.
The promised reforms include recruiting more females, fast-tracking women to supervisory and management positions, new career paths, more part-time jobs, more flexible hours, a new reporting system for complaints of harassment and reforms to the disciplinary system.
Policewomen will be encouraged to apply for senior positions and will no longer be "punished" for taking parental leave.
And police who do not accept the cultural changes will be denied promotions while offenders will be sacked.
Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius, who is charge of implementing the reforms, said he was ashamed to find sexual harassment stretched from junior ranks to management.
"This is not just a few isolated pockets," he said. "The awful truth is there has been a level of tolerance to bad behaviour."
Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, warned there would be "a huge backlash" from some who continue to deny the problem.
She said she expected the problem could "get worse before it gets better."
The investigation found present methods of dealing with sexual harassment have failed with victims feeling pressure to remain silent.
Only 11 per cent of victims (8 per cent males and 13 per cent of females) made formal complaints.
"The most common reason that women and men gave for not reporting was the perceived negative consequences for their reputation".
Assistant Commissioner Cornelius said, "We have people out there who are scared to make a complaint."
He said that from December 9 police would have access to a 24-hour external service to assist victims who need help, called Safe Space.
The inquiry found some women were targeted as soon as they were recruited. "There has been a misuse of power, including sexual harassment, predatory behaviour and sex discrimination by some Academy instructors and supervisory staff towards recruits and probationary constables."
The commission found police fundamentally failed to provide a safe working environment.
"An entrenched culture of 'everyday sexism' coupled with a high tolerance for sexual harassment has left many current and former Victoria Police employees harmed, sidelined and deeply disillusioned."
The investigation found reporting sexual harassment, including assaults in the workplace, was seen "as an act of disloyalty to 'the team'".
"Individuals had been excluded, ostracised, shamed and physically and emotionally abused for making a report."
In some cases alleged sexual predators were "moved or promoted," while others were allowed to resign with unblemished records. The commission said police should consider introducing a "resigned while under investigation" category to service records.
The investigation found that of 4887 valid responses 477 (321 and 144 men – 12 did not specify gender) said they had been sexually harassed by colleagues in the past five years.
"Gay men were six times more likely than heterosexual men to have been sexually harassed by a colleague in the past five years."
"Some men also reported they experience hostility, bullying, and sexual harassment because of their actual or perceived homosexuality or because they do not fit the traditional male stereotype."
The investigation, initiated in 2014 by then Chief Commissioner Ken Lay found some supervisors who should be protecting staff were active participants in the harassment.
"The high level of tolerance for sexism and sexual harassment in the workplace, especially among supervisors and managers, clearly undermines the confidence that women had to speak up or come forward with a complaint."
The report found women were discriminated against with limited promotion, training and career enhancement opportunities. About 25 per cent of operational police are woman but at the rank of superintendent that drops to five 5 per cent.
Ms Jenkins has set police three separate deadlines over the next 30 months to complete the reforms and there will be a series of external audits to report on the extent of change.
The reform package will be the biggest since the 1971 St Johnston Report introduced 186 recommendations to modernise policing.
Last week The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission reported some police sexually exploited the vulnerable, including victims of family violence.
And police taskforce Salus is investigating 36 complaints of police sexual harassment including one allegation of rape.
Mr Ashton said the report made "ugly reading" and vowed there would be no place in the organisation for anyone "who made the workplace unsafe".
He will implement the commission's call for a redress scheme that will offer apologies and compensation.
"In the light of the significant harm caused, Victoria Police should publicly acknowledge, in the form of an apology, current and former employees, who have experience harm or detriment due to sexual harassment and sex discrimination within the Victoria Police," the inquiry found.
This should include provisions "for financial and non financial reparations".
Mr Ashton said police had initiated the external review and would use the recommendations as a road map for cultural reform. "This must change, this will change."
Senior police may need to ask the government for extra numbers to cover the recommendation to "backfill" positions left vacant when staff are on parental leave.
Senior police fear the problem may be greater than has been reported. About 30 per cent of the workforce completed the commission survey and it did not include staff who have resigned due to harassment.