Ian Killey examines what should be a simple question: Who controls the body exercising the policing power of the state? He finds the current understanding is both confused and concerning. Previous examinations and changes to Australian legislation have been made without considering basic elements, such as the parliamentary intention of earlier legislation; the doctrine of ministerial responsibility; the Canadian review of the same statutory model; and the intention of the founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel.
Despite these and other serious inadequacies, the legal or conventional independence of police is now widely believed to exist. Yet Australian parliaments have also routinely provided governments with indirect and non-transparent means of influencing police by reducing the security of tenure of Police Commissioners.
Dr Killey argues that Australian police forces have the elements of the worst of all possible worlds: a confused mixture of asserted police independence based on bad history and poor legal analysis combined with provisions which encourage police subordination by non-transparent, indirect government influence. His book undertakes a complete assessment of the constitutional relationship of Australian police with government and proposals for law reform for the establishment of a clear, coherent and constitutional relationship between them.