Victoria Police Engaged in Racial Profiling During the Covid-19 Pandemic
27 June 2023
MELBOURNE, VICTORIA: Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) has called on the Victorian Government to waive all COVID-19 fines after its groundbreaking study revealed that Victoria Police engaged in racial profiling when it issued infringement notices during the first year of the COVID pandemic.
The report, Policing COVID-19 in Victoria: Exploring the Impact of Perceived Race in the Issuing of COVID-19 Fines During 2020, found African, Middle Eastern and First Nations people were more likely to receive a COVID-19 fine than expected for their population size.
Lead research, Doctor Tamar Hopkins said the data revealed more fines were issued to racialised groups for a public health order breach after intense questioning or a detailed investigation.
“We divided the fines that Victoria Police issued into fines where the offence was visually apparent, for example failing to wear a face mask, and offences that required police to question the individual before they could determine whether an offence had taken place,” Doctor Hopkins said.
“We found strong evidence that African/Middle Eastern appearing people were more likely to be issued with a fine that required questioning than white people. This difference in treatment provides evidence of racial profiling by the police against African/Middle Eastern people.”
The report also found some police operations resulted in up to 40 per cent of the fines being issued to people of African and Middle Eastern appearance, which included highway patrols and public transport operations. It also found certain police stations issued between 10 to 30 per cent of all the COVID-19 fines to First Nations people.
The data also showed that the total number of COVID-19 fines issued increased by 11 per cent for every 10 per cent increase in non-English speaking people within a Local Government Area (LGA).
Ilo Diaz from the Police Accountability Project, at IMCL, said the findings of the report pointed to systemic issues that cause racialised communities to be targeted.
“The report proved what black, brown and First Nations communities have known for years. Our communities will be targeted the most when police are given extra powers,” he said.
“Victoria needs a Police Ombudsman, so our communities have a safe and independent complaints body to investigate the impact of everyday policing on racialised communities. We justifiably have little trust in the police,” Mr Diaz said.
“Victoria Police needs to be more transparent and make more information available to the public. We need public reporting on police stop and search data. This report should be a wake-up call to the Victorian Government to act to eliminate racial profiling in Victoria Police.”
Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL)
IMCL works for inclusive and safe communities and the full realisation of human rights, which includes advocating for systemic change in many areas including police accountability.
Doctor Tamar Hopkins
Dr Tamar Hopkins has been working in the area of police accountability and racism since 2005. She is a leading expert in racial profiling and police powers, with a PHD from University of NSW. Tamar was briefed as an expert witness by NAAJA in the Kumanjayi Walker Inquest focusing on police accountability. She appeared as an expert witness at the Yoorrook Justice Commission in May 2023 on police accountability and racial profiling. She was the founding lawyer of the Police Accountability Project at Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre in Melbourne Australia in 2009. In 2010 she was the LIV Community Lawyer of the Year and has acted in a number of high-profile matters including Haile-Michael v Konstantindis & Ors (settled, Federal Court of Australia 2013), Horvath v Australia (UN Human Rights Committee).
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Inner Melbourne Community Legal