Historical police records used in trend analysis

Stolen valour, meal fraud and theft of military equipment are among the archived criminal investigations in the stacks of boxes at the Military Police Central Records Office.

CAPTIONNikki Dohnt, of the Military Police Central Records Office, sorts through archives in Canberra.

Each year, there are thousands of requests to access the archives for data to support investigations. Once an authorised request is approved, records are released.

Acting assistant director for the records office Nikki Dohnt said the office provided information to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, the Afghan Inquiry Response Task Force, Defence personnel and civilian police.

“They make official requests when they’re gathering information on a Defence member or they might have been a witness to one of their investigations,” Ms Dohnt said.

The Joint Military Police Unit uses these records to analyse patterns and trends in military-related investigations.

Archived records can also be used by unit-level tactical criminal intelligence analysts, trained in preventative crime.

Analysts can identify trends and patterns that increase law enforcement effectiveness to support the Defence community on bases.

Captain Ianto Pickavance, of Headquarters Joint Military Police Force, said military police turn that analysis into proactive policing measures.

“This may take the form of increased MP [Military Police] presence at key locations and certain times, or awareness campaigns on base,” he said.

By studying historical data combined with current data, Ms Dohnt said they could identify ongoing problems and learn from past strategies.

“For example, if there was an uptick in harassment cases on a particular base, the data can prompt an increase in patrols or targeted interventions,” she said.

“You can’t know that unless you’ve got stats on it, and all the stats and information come from these records.”

In 2020, Ms Dohnt’s team received a group commendation for its management projects and response to critical research tasks.

The records were digitised in 2019, marking the transition to a paperless system for the Military Police Central Records Office.

There are about 150,000 hard files waiting to be digitalised and 1.2 million digital files dating back to the 1960s, with 90 per cent held in Canberra.

A member can also request information from an incident to provide to the Department of Veteran Affairs to enable a claim by emailing milpol.info@defence.gov.au


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