26 September 2023

Ombudsman surveys police surveillance

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An inspection by the Commonwealth Ombudsman into the Western Australia Police Force’s (WA Police) surveillance device records has uncovered the destruction of records without approval.

Issuing his office’s Report to the Minister for Home Affairs on agency compliance with the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth): For the period 1 July to 31 December 2021, newly appointed Ombudsman, Iain Anderson said he examined how law enforcement and integrity Agencies used surveillance devices under Commonwealth legislation.

Mr Anderson said the Surveillance Devices Act required law enforcement and integrity agencies to obtain warrants and authorisations to use surveillance devices.

“The Act restricts the use, communication and publication of information obtained through using surveillance devices,” Mr Anderson said.

“The Act also imposes requirements for the secure storage and destruction of records relating to the use of surveillance devices.”

He made two suggestions and one better practice suggestion after finding that protected information had been destructed without an order from the Chief Officer, and that two reports to the Minister under the Act contained insufficient information.

“I am pleased WA Police developed standard operating procedures for destructions and provided this to staff in response to my suggestions,” Mr Anderson said.

“WA Police engaged openly and constructively with my Office’s inspection team.”

The Ombudsman’s Report also includes the results of a review of the New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission surveillance device policies and procedures that support compliance with the Act.

“I commend the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission for engaging with my Office on a review of its policies and procedures, which is not compulsory under the Act,” Mr Anderson said.

“This demonstrates the importance the Commission places on proactive work to comply with the Act’s requirements,” he said.

The Ombudsman’s 12-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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