The reform of policing policies
It is now appropriate to consider the formal responses of police services to the types of problems already identified. Police have adopted a variety of approaches to improving relations with Indigenous people but, as the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recognised, there is no simple magic formula. For change to be effective it must be built on the basis of negotiation with local Aboriginal communities and have their full support (Wootten 1991a, p. 314).
Potential police responses to Aboriginal issues cover a range of different policies and programs. They include the broad policy and organisational direction of the particular police service as well as the variety of particular programs aimed at Indigenous issues. These programs might include new recruit and in-service training for police in Indigenous issues; police recruitment strategies for Indigenous police officers; the recruitment, roles and utilisation of Aboriginal community liaison officers and Aboriginal community police; the establishment and function of crosscultural advisory units; the interpretation and practice of community policing strategies in relation to Aboriginal communities; and management policies for the oversight of discretionary decisions by police at the local level.
Much of the change in policing during the 1980s and 1990s was brought about within the broad policy framework of community and problem-solving policing. Community policing has been a powerful influence on policing developments, even if its adoption has been uneven and contradictory and, as discussed more fully below, the impact on Indigenous people has been problematic. Community policing is difficult to define but it at least implies, according to a senior New South Wales police officer, ‘the professional community-based police officer working with the particular community of his/her beat to solve … local problems’