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Appendix A: Professional standards and AFP conduct issues

AFP Professional Standards (PRS) is responsible for the development and maintenance of a robust and transparent framework to safeguard and strengthen the integrity of the AFP. It operates under Part V of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth) (AFP Act) to support the organisation and its appointees through the AFP’s integrity framework, based on the key elements of prevention, detection, response and continuous improvement.

PRS focuses on continuous improvement and uses sophisticated data-driven methods to identify trends, risks and vulnerabilities to inform the AFP executive of the organisation’s integrity health.

Education, including demystifying the work and role of PRS, is also a current area of focus. This includes sharing sanction outcomes and case studies as learnings, thus enhancing professional standards being embodied by the organisation and its members.

Complaint management

Part V of the AFP Act defines the categories of complaints about AFP appointees. Complaints are dealt with as breaches of the AFP Code of Conduct. Code of Conduct issues fall into one of four categories:

  • The lowest, and least serious, is category 1
  • The next highest, and next most serious, is category 2
  • The next highest, and next most serious, is category 3
  • The highest, and most serious, is conduct giving rise to a corruption issue (category 4).

Corruption issues as defined by the Law Enforcement Integrity Act 2006 (Cth) can be deemed to be either significant or non-significant corruption and are notified to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI). Corruption issues may be investigated by:

  • ACLEI
  • jointly between ACLEI and the AFP
  • the AFP without ACLEI oversight or management
  • the AFP with ACLEI oversight or management.

If conduct would otherwise belong to more than one category, it is taken to belong to the higher or highest of those categories.

In 2019–20 the AFP received a total of 306 complaints—a 16.16 per cent decrease on the figure of 365 in the previous reporting period. The number of new alleged breaches of the AFP Code of Conduct resulting from these complaints was 586, 10.26 per cent lower than the corresponding figure for 2018–19 (653).

Table A1 Categories of AFP conduct issues and case examples

Category 1

Incident: Customer service—unreasonable delay (established)

A member of the public made a complaint about the lack of contact by ACT Policing in relation to a theft in the ACT. The complainant had not received any contact from ACT Policing in relation to the theft within six months of the incident being reported. The complaint was found to be established on the basis that the officer did not provide adequate contact with the member of the public that would comply with section 4(b) of the Victims of Crime Act 1994 (ACT). The officer was required to undergo formal counselling and the matter was recorded on the officer’s performance development agreement.

Category 2

Incident: Inappropriate breach of guide—failure to comply with procedure (established)

A member of the public made a complaint about the failure to return property within a reasonable time frame. The property was provided to ACT Policing to assist with enquiries in relation to a theft in the ACT. The investigation identified that the property was not lodged according to the AFP’s Property Handling Guidelines, which caused the delay in returning the property to the owner. The complaint was found to be established on the basis that the officer provided inadequate service (category 1) and failed to comply with procedure (category 2). The officer was counselled in relation to the Property Handling Guidelines and complying with victims of crime legislation.

Category 3

Incident: Information access (established)

A member was identified as having accessed the AFP’s Police Real-time On-line Management Information System (PROMIS) to search their own name and those of family members on multiple occasions without lawful authority. Use of the PROMIS must be for a purpose related to a member’s employment. This incident was identified as a result of an audit undertaken by the AFP’s information technology area.

The complaint was found to be established on the basis that the conduct demonstrated carelessness in the member’s lack of adherence to National Guidelines and in their failure to comply with the use of systems for official use only. The member received a formal warning and formal counselling and was required to undertake training on information management, and the matter was recorded on the member’s performance development agreement.

Category 4

(Corruption)

Incident: Unlawful disclosure of information (established)

In 2019 a complaint was made alleging that an official AFP document had been released externally to a member of the public. The investigation identified that a member of the AFP had unlawfully disclosed official information. This conduct breached AFP governance and was found to be established on the basis that the member engaged in corrupt conduct when they disclosed operational information without authorisation. The conduct was identified as non-significant corruption in that the member’s conduct constitutes an abuse of office. The member resigned during the investigation.

Table A2 Alleged conduct breaches recorded by category, 2016–17 to 2019–20

2016–17

2017–18

2018–19

2019–20

All AFP

Category 1

105

96

117

84

Category 2

316

323

259

209

Category 3

333

183

197

202

Category 4

87

80

80

91

Total

841

682

653

586

Conduct breaches are individual issues identified within a complaint. Multiple breaches may be applied when two or more complaint issues are identified from information supplied by a complainant or when two or more members are subject to a complaint.

Table A3 Alleged complaints recorded by source, 2019–20

Source

Number of alleged complaints

Percentage

Anonymous member of the public

7

2%

Member of the public

97

32%

Another AFP member

183

60%

Self-reported

19

6%

Total

306

100%

Table A4 Finalised conduct breaches by category, 2019–20

Established

Not established

Withdrawn

Discretion not to proceed

Total finalised

All AFP

Category 1

15

91

6

23

135

Category 2

137

93

3

66

299

Category 3

98

157

0

47

302

Category 4

1

29

0

22

52

Total AFP

251

370

9

158

788

Percentage

32%

47%

1%

20%

100%

Conduct breaches are individual issues identified within a complaint. Multiple breaches may be applied when two or more complaint issues are identified from information supplied by a complainant or when two or more members are subject to a complaint.

Section 40TF of the AFP Act sets out the circumstances under which the Commissioner may decide to take no further action in relation to a conduct issue. These circumstances include when appropriate action has already been taken or further investigation is determined to be not warranted or the alleged issue took place more than 12 months before reporting.

This table includes matters reported before 1 July 2019 and finalised during 2019–20.

Table A5 Prohibited drug tests conducted, 2019–20

Category

201920

Mandatory applicant testing

586

Mandatory targeted and random testing

2,481

Mandatory investigation and certain incident testing

3

Total

3,070

The term ‘certain incident’ relates to an incident where a person is seriously or fatally injured in an incident involving a motor vehicle or while in police custody, or a person is seriously or fatally injured by a firearm discharging or physical force.