How to pick a dodgy cop before they're even hired

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How to pick a dodgy cop before they're even hired

Victoria's corruption watchdog uses data to read the signs.

Victoria’s two year-old corruption watchdog, IBAC, is still in the infant stages of its data analytics journey, but its efforts are already beginning to pay off.

IBAC, or the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission was established in April 2012, to keep tabs on the integrity of the state’s 3600 public sector bodies, 79 local councils, members of Parliament and the judiciary, and the Victoria Police.

At yesterday’s National Investigations Symposium in Sydney, IBAC’s manager of strategic policy Stuart Macintyre explained how his small team has already used data to cut the annual rate of complaints made about Victoria Police officers by nearly half.

With just himself, a manager and a handful of IBAC analysts, Macintyre has been working on ways to reverse engineer the early warning signs that the Victoria Police need to watch for to stamp out and even prevent police misconduct.

One of his processes is now being used by the Victoria Police to identify unsuitable recruits before they even join the force.

Using psychometric testing data dating back to 1985, on 149 of the “most undesirable members Victoria Police wish they never recruited” Macintyre built a model to pick the risky recruits from the graduate pack every year.

To test his profile, calculated from the common denominators within the 500-odd characteristics tested, he matched the ‘undesirables’ list against 151 complaint-free members who reflected the age, gender, duties and background profile as closely as possible. When he ran a test of his model profile to see if he could split the undesirables out from the control group, the risk profile came up 90 percent accurate.

“We now use the model when recruits do the [psychometric testing] and if they get tagged as an undesirable they have to go through a minimum of three one-hour visits with the psychiatrist,” Macintyre said.

“They generally don’t get recruited,” he added. “Since we brought this in about six have been recruited but they have been a disaster.”

Macintyre also visits convicted former officers in prison, and has built 300-400 row profiles of their behaviour and background, which he then matches together to build a set of characteristic early warning signs that could point to an officer doing the wrong thing.

“We collect data on their family background, their education, what time in their life they joined VicPol. Then whether they gamble, whether they visit prostitutes, whether they lived beyond their means,” he explained.

“If any of these risk factors are appearing in members this can alert managers that these features generally do correlate...The trick is putting these signs into people’s heads and encouraging them to be proactive about reporting them.”

He said the IBAC actively monitors for these signs, and has seen complaints about Victoria Police officers from members of the public drop from as many as 1300 per year to just 800 since being applied.

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