SAPOL Independent Review

SAPOL Independent Review


In 2016, The EOC was commissioned by South Australia Police (SAPOL) to undertake a review about the nature and the extent of sex discrimination, sexual harassment and predatory behaviour in SAPOL and make recommendations to address it.

All current SAPOL staff, including sworn and non-sworn employees, volunteers and those who had left SAPOL in the last 12 months, were invited to take part in the review. They were asked to give their views on good practices as well as issues or concerns about what they had seen, heard or experienced.

The EOC received survey responses from almost 2,000 people and conducted 53 face-to-face interviews.

The results

The review found that sex discrimination and sexual harassment of women – and anyone else that doesn’t fit the white macho male stereotype - is commonplace in SAPOL, including amongst supervisors and managers.

Sex discrimination
  • 45 percent of those surveyed reported they had personally experienced sex discrimination.
  • Women were more likely to experience sex discrimination. 
  • Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual women and men were also more likely to experience sex discrimination.
Sexual harassment
  • Women are more likely to experience sexual harassment in SAPOL.
  • 21 percent of women indicated they had experienced this in the last five years.
  • 8 per cent of men indicated they had experienced this in the last five years.
Predatory behaviour
  • Results showed that predatory behaviour is 21 percent higher in SAPOL than in the general workforce.

The EOC has made 38 recommendations which, if implemented in full, will help evolve a culture in SAPOL where gender equality is simply part of how business is done. It will also ensure that when people make a complaint about harassment or discrimination, their voice will be heard loud and clear. The EOC is independently monitoring and reporting on SAPOL’s progress over three years, see SAPOL Monitoring Project. 

Independent Review - summary and recommendations (PDF 6MB)

Independent Review - full report (PDF 4MB)

Who the Review Heard from 

All current SAPOL staff aged over 18 years, including both sworn and unsworn employees, volunteers and staff who have left SAPOL in the last 12 months were invited to take part in the Review. 

The Review acknowledges that anyone can experience sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and that people may experience it differently. The Review wanted to hear from all staff regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexual preference. To provide a contemporary picture, the Review focused on experiences from the last five years.

The EOC gathered information using:

  • a confidential and anonymous online survey
  • confidential one-on-one interviews
  • confidential written submissions
  • de-identified SAPOL data
  • EOC observation of SAPOL work and training places; and
  • a review of legislation, policies and prcedures.
Definition of Terms
Sexual Harassment 

Legally, sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, where it is reasonable to expect that the other person would be offended, afraid or humiliated. Both men and women can sexually harass and be harassed by either sex. 

Sexual harassment is determined from the point of view of the person feeling harassed. It does not matter how the behaviour was intended. What matters if the effect on the other person. Sexual harassment can be:

  • unwelcome touching or kissing
  • commenting on a person's appearance
  • comments, jokes or name-calling
  •  leering or staring 
  • sexual pictures, objects, emails, text messages or literature
  • direct or implied propositions, or requests for dates
  • asking about a person's sexual history or sexual activities 

Mutual attraction or friendship with consent is not considered sexual harassment. 

Sex Discrimination 

Sex discrimination for the purpose of the Review is when a person is treated less favourably because of their gender identity. It is also sex discrimination when there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on people of a particular sex. 

Sex discrimination includes all forms of gender-based discrimination, for example, discrimination based on pregnancy, parental responsibilities, breastfeeding, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, part-time status and access to flexible working arrangements. 

Predatory Behaviour 

Predatory behaviour is the misuse of authority or influence with the intention of exploiting others for sexual or other personal gratification. For the purpose of the Review was sexual harassment perpetrated by someone in authority or influence over the victim. 

Reference Group
Reference Group Charter

A Reference Group was established to provide advice to the Review Team on: 

  • The conduct of the project at key milestones
  • The promotion of the Review
  • Approaches to maximising staff engagement
  • Addressing issues emerging during the Review 
  • The clarity, usefulness and factual accuracy of key documents, including the staff survey 
  • The practicality of recommendations to achieve intended outcomes. 
Reference Group Membership
  • Equal Opportunity Commissioner (Chair)
  • Commissioner of SA Police
  • Deputy Commissioner of SA Police
  • Manager - Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission 
  • Assistant Commissioner - Victoria Police
  • Commissioner for Public Sector Employment (SA).