On 4 August 2020, the New South Wales Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott introduced the Police Amendment (Promotions) Bill 2020 (NSW) (“the Bill”) into the Legislative Assembly. The Bill passed both houses of parliament without amendments on 17 September 2020.
On 28 September 2020, the Bill received the royal assent. The Police Amendment (Promotions) Act 2020 (NSW) (“the Act”) is yet to commence.
The Act amends the Police Act 1990 (NSW) (“the Police Act”) and the Police Regulation 2015 (NSW) (“the Police Regulation) regarding the promotions process of non-executive police officers. The Act gives effect to recommendations given in the Review into the NSW Police Force Promotions System (“the Review”).
In July 2018, the former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick was engaged by the New South Wales Police Force (“the Police Force”) to examine its promotions system. Part of this report was to investigate if the system had a negative impact on the ability of female officers and officers with caring responsibilities in achieving leadership roles. On 2 June 2019, the final Review was released by New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller. The Review took into account almost 3,500 surveys from police officers.
The Review found that the promotions system required modernization since it did not contain adequate protections against corruption and nepotism. The Review recommended the establishment of a new framework for promotions for Sergeants, Inspectors, and Superintendents. In regards to female officers and their experience with the current promotion system, the Review found that whilst there was no overt discrimination within the system itself, the way in which the system operated, had a disproportionately adverse impact on female applicants. The Review also found that supporting flexible work practices is key to attract and retain female officers.
The Review grouped its recommendations based on five principles, aimed to create a transparent promotions system, in order to achieve a more gender diverse leadership mix for the Police Force. These five principles are:
The Act implements a modern merit-based promotions system for non-executive police officers, such as Sergeants, Inspectors, and Superintendents. The new system seeks to match the merits of candidates to specific advertised promotional positions. The current promotions system allocates the first available vacancy to first available officers in a promotions list, irrespective of an officer’s skills and the required capabilities for the vacant position.
The new promotions framework will require the Commissioner to firstly assess an officer’s suitability for the promotion. The officer will then have to demonstrate their suitability through applying and undergoing a comparability assessment with other applicants. This new system reflects a recognition of the need for a more effective promotions system, and an awareness of the specialization of roles.
Schedule 1 of the Act amends the Police Act by removing all references to a promotions list, and providing that vacant positions are to be filled on a merit-basis. These amendments are consistent with the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (NSW), which provides for merit-based appointments within the public sector. Schedule 1 also contains amendments in regards to vacant specialist positions and acting appointments and temporary appointments. Schedule 2 of the Act amends the Police Regulation in order to support amendments to the Police Act.
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