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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 70316 Find in a Library
Title: South Australian Government and the Police
Journal: Politics  Volume:14  Issue:1  Dated:(May 1979)  Pages:101-108
Author(s): J Summers
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 8
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: Ministers should not interfere in the day to day process of law enforcement even though police cooperation with the Chief Secretary is essential, according to the Royal Commission in Australia.
Abstract: Police autonomy in Australia pertains to some areas concerned with daily law enforcement activities such as the prosecution of a particular person or class of persons. However, Cabinet ministers are collectively and individually responsible to Parliament for the administration of the executive arm of Government, of which the Police Force is an important part. This problem of ministerial responsibility in relation to the police has caused much controversy. In 1977 the Government instituted an inquiry into the conduct of the South Australina Police Special Branch, especially regarding files kept by the branch. According to the subsequent White Report, the Police Commissioner had misled the Government regarding the content of the files, which, as the inquiry established, contained information (about 3,000 separate files and dossiers, and 40,000 index cards) about persons and organizations not considered genuine security risks, (e.g., Labor Party personalities, peace movement activists, homosexuals, etc.). As a result of the inquiry, the commissioner was sacked by the Government. However, controversy ensued concerning the action of the Government and the extent of ministerial responsibility. The Royal Commission of 1978 found that sacking of the commissioner was justified, since he misled the Government, and that police cooperation with the Government overrides police autonomy. A clear division of responsibility is impossible to define and the issue will remain a matter of politics. References (18) are included.
Index Term(s): Australia; Federal government; Intelligence files; Police command and control; Police decisionmaking; Police intelligence operations; Police legal limitations
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