Queensland’s police commissioner declined an initial invitation to appear at domestic violence inquiry

·4 min read
<span>Photograph: Darren England/AAP</span>
Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Queensland’s police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, rejected an invitation to appear at an inquiry into police responses to domestic violence, prompting the commission to ask if they needed to issue a summons for her to attend.

During a hearing on Thursday, counsel assisting the inquiry, Ruth O’Gorman, said the commission first asked Carroll to give evidence on 4 August after they “formed concerns about lack of resourcing” after the testimony of assistant police commissioner Brian Codd.

O’Gorman said Carroll subsequently declined the request to attend.

The commission again contacted Carroll on 11 August, O’Gorman said, advising that her attendance was “required” and asking whether she needed a “summons issued” for her to appear.

Speaking at the inquiry, Carroll agreed this had occurred and said: “I was content to come along.”

In a written statement provided to the inquiry, Carroll said she did “not accept” that there were widespread cultural issues in the Queensland police service (QPS).

“The term widespread implies that there are entrenched or ingrained cultural issues with all, or the majority, of the service, I do not accept this … QPS are committed to addressing inappropriate behaviour,” her statement read.

Related: ‘Watershed moment’: horror and hope from inquiry into Queensland police

The inquiry heard that 40% of officers who participated in a survey did not agree that QPS senior leaders sent a positive message about the importance of eliminating domestic and family violence.

In response, Carroll told the inquiry on Thursday: “I am surprised and disappointed to see that.

The inquiry’s commissioner, Deborah Richards, also asked Carroll why she had not responded to written questions from the inquiry about the resourcing of the police service domestic and family violence command.

Carroll said an assistant commissioner, Cameron Harsley, had done a lot of work around resourcing and had a better understanding of where the money had been spent.

“But we didn’t ask the questions of that person, we asked the questions of you,” Richards said, before the hearing moved on to other matters.

O’Gorman put to Carroll that some police districts were “crying out for resources”. Carroll said would “have to agree with that”, saying reforms were about 18 months behind where she’d “like them to be” and that she would enquire about whether further resources could be sought.

Through the course of Thursday’s hearings, O’Gorman raised a series of controversial comments made by officers, including one by a senior officer at a conference in Brisbane in March.

O’Gorman said the officer, who was promoted in July, referred to a cut on his face during the conference and joked he had been through a “rough promotional process”, before a superintendent called out “did she shut her legs on you?”

Carroll, who was not in attendance, told the inquiry that several officers walked out in protest.

The inquiry also heard another senior officer referred to his friend as a “vagina whisperer” at a different conference in April.

Richards asked whether there were cultural issues within the QPS, considering the senior members of police had felt comfortable making misogynistic comments in such a public setting.

“It speaks to the healthy side of the culture … both matters were dealt with very, very quickly,” Carroll said.

Carroll confirmed to the inquiry that 79 officers were being investigated over an offensive Facebook post that mocked domestic violence victims and implied police avoid responding to such incidents, and a series of comments made below it.

Guardian Australia had last month revealed the posts were made in a private Facebook group for current and former Australian law enforcement while the inquiry was under way.

Related: Head of Queensland police union says no widespread cultural problem in domestic violence response

The inquiry heard the officer who made the post had a history of not complying with police operational procedures, including failing to enter a domestic violence incident into police software.

Carroll’s appearance at the inquiry came after Guardian Australia asked the commission on 4 August why they had not asked the police commissioner to give evidence in person at the hearings, which were scheduled to finish last Tuesday.

The commission said it “did not intend” to call Carroll.

A QPS spokesperson previously said its organisation and the commissioner had “provided a significant contribution” to the inquiry and will “fully cooperate”.

Guardian Australia has contacted the commission and QPS for comment.