‘Insulting’: SA’s top policewoman blasts anonymous complaint

Deputy Police Commissioner Linda Williams has called out “completely wrong” and “annoying” claims that women are unfairly being promoted before men in SA Police.

Mar 08, 2023, updated Mar 08, 2023
Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard, Acting Premier Susan Close and Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard, Acting Premier Susan Close and Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Williams said SA Police had come a long way from women having to “wear a dress, carry a handbag and wear court shoes” on the job, so a recent publicly released letter claiming women were being favoured over men was disappointing.

The anonymous letter, claiming to be written by a senior officer, suggested women were being allowed to re-sit one particular exam for promotion, while men were forced to wait another 12 months.

The writer also claimed that police women had won senior roles “ahead of other male applicants and it can only be surmised that this is because of their gender”.

“It’s completely unfair and completely wrong and what it tried to do was put a shade on women, and that a cohort of women had been promoted and they didn’t deserve it and that is insulting,” Williams told InDaily.

“The fact that it is factually incorrect is the part that is most annoying.”

An email has since been sent to all SA Police staff, saying the truth was that more men were allowed to re-sit some aspects of the inspectors’ qualification program exam referred to by the anonymous police officer over the past three years, than women.

“I think the good thing is that we have good women who do not accept that and are very proud of their achievement,” she said, adding that South Australia was the first state in Australia to have women sworn police officers.

“They are sitting in the system because they want to affect change, and whilst that (letter of complaint) might be disappointing it’s not going to sway them from being what they are and that is excellent police women and excellent role models.”

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said on Tuesday that the letter writer had since contacted his office to identify himself, with Stevens saying he was currently suspended and facing disciplinary charges.

The South Australian Police force (SAPOL) was the first in the nation to allow women into its ranks, appointing Kate Cocks and Annie Ross as the first women police in the British Commonwealth in 1915.

When Williams started at the old Police Academy at Fort Largs in 1980, there were 26 people in her course – eight were female and all were aged around 17 or 18 years.

In her time with SAPOL she has worked as a prosecutor, completed a law degree in 1999 at Adelaide University and was appointed as Deputy Commissioner at the same time Grant Stevens was appointed as Commissioner of Police in 2015.

The appointment made Williams the highest-ranking female police officer in South Australian history.

SA Police Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams. Photo: Belinda Willis/InDaily

Now SAPOL is running recruitment campaigns in a bid to increase the current ratio of 34.6 per cent women in the force to 38 per cent by 2030.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Williams said it was crucial to have diversity in the police force to reflect a variety of voices when policy is made or when officers deal with the public, saying this in turn builds trust within the community.

She referred to her own contribution in being heavily involved in advocating for South Australia to introduce the first anti-stalking laws in the nation during the mid ‘90s as among her proudest achievements.

The new legislation meant restraining orders that restrict offenders being able to approach victims as a first step to stopping violent behaviour, could be instated.

It’s a law that Williams said particularly supported women who were far more likely to be the victims of stalking or family violence.

“I think it has saved a lot of lives, it held the person to account for the behaviour in a way they had never been held to account before,” Williams said.

She said the prevalence of women being victims in family violence was another reason why it was important to recruit and promoted police women.

“I think if women are not in the room, then they are not shaping policy and their views are not being taken into account,” she said.

“If you have a workforce that is more representative of the community, I think you have a more compassionate police officer who is more understanding and is more empathetic to a victim.”

Today, Williams is speaking at an International Women’s Day event organised by Business SA.

She will stand alongside Metropolitan Fire Service firefighter Genevieve Rueger who flies Blackhawk firebombers for a private company.

During her 22-year career with the Australian Defence Force, Rueger was a Black Hawk helicopter pilot and also worked as a member of the Counter Terrorism Regiment in Sydney. She was deployed many times domestically and internationally including to East Timor in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2009.

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.