History of the OPO

The Police (Complaints and Disciplinary Proceedings) Act  came into being in 1985. Prior to this, there was no agency charged with exercising any degree of oversight over SAPOL. There was no widespread public anxiety about SAPOL prior to the establishment of the Office of the Police Ombudsman. In fact, South Australia was the last of the Australian states to adopt a system of civilian oversight of its police force. Public perceptions of police in other Australian states where there was increasing concern about police behaviour may well have been a driving factor behind the introduction of civilian oversight in South Australia.

In its final form, the Bill that was introduced into Parliament differed substantially, in a variety of ways, from the recommendations first put forward by the review committee that had been convened. Some of these modifications tended to enhance the protections offered to police, whereas others tended to extend the scope and authority of the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

The system established by the Act is both definitive and complex; it deliberately follows the model of ‘external monitoring of internal investigation,’ rather than creating a truly independent investigative agency. The Act creates and defines the functions of the Internal Investigation Section (IIS) of SAPOL as the entity responsible for the primary investigation of complaints, subject to the oversight of the Office of the Police Ombudsman. It is a clear expectation of the Act that the majority of investigations will be conducted by IIS, and this has been the practice since the Act was introduced.