It is not the number of Police that makes a difference, but how you use them; that is the key.
Victoria Police are allegedly understaffed, which means that radical and surgical work must be undertaken to maintain Law and Order, something the average citizen sees slipping away.
The most common gripe from Police members is the role that they have been forced to play in the Domestic conflict situation. Taking multiple crews off the road for periods often well past the end of their shifts and into overtime.
The priority of Domestic disturbances impact causes every other function to be adversely impacted, and functions assessed on the lower end of the scale of importance can wait many hours for Police to attend, if at all.
Often forgotten in the prioritising regime is people do not contact the Police for no good reason. Whatever the incident, it is important to them. Although administrative assessments of importance occur, the victim has no such luxury.
The biggest casualty is the inability of the Police to provide a highly visible Police presence, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour.
Backed by a Royal Commission, the role of the police in domestic incidents has gone well past their primary function of maintaining the Peace and enforcing the law, to become glorified statistic accumulators, marriage guidance experts, conflict resolution councillors and welfare managers.
Sometimes, even Royal Commissions get it very wrong, as in this case. The Commission’s terms of reference would possibly be where the error lays as the consequences of their recommendations on the broader question of the role of the broad function of Police were unlikely to have been examined and, therefore, not properly considered.
That anomaly must be adjusted.
Unintended consequences of the Commission findings could be the major driver in Police leaving the service and or suffering stress-related illness through work overload.
If not the major driver of police dissatisfaction, it is a significant contributor.
From a policing perspective, attending a Domestic that takes up a high proportion of their daily duties, day in and day out, is something they did not sign on for.
As part of their job, it is their responsibility to prevent any breach of peace and prosecute offenders; they accept that. However, they are not qualified, nor should they be expected to handle the matter beyond that. Their expertise lies elsewhere.
There is a plethora of highly paid public servants in a number of departments supported by a large ‘Domestic industry’ of consultants and clinicians that has been built up around this issue, but their service is restricted to office hours and office environments inconsistent with the realities of parties they are working with, that falls to the Police.
Highly paid Lawyers also feed off the Domestic carcase, but they all have something in common with the confluence of all the ‘Domestic industry’ functions. They only operate by referral and appointments and are rarely, if ever, available to help with intervention while the situation is active.
If half the experts who derive an income from this industry were required to provide a 24-hour response capacity of sufficient numbers to deal with the fallout of half the reported Domestic disturbances in any given shift the impact would be extremely positive, firstly for the warring parties and additionally on the capacity of VicPol to perform its roader function.
There would be no expectation that the Domestic response units be exposed to danger as the scene must first be controlled by the Police, but the early intervention of a response team will achieve better outcomes for the parties to the dispute.
Critically, where children are involved, the response teams can remove them, temporarily out of harm’s way, changing the focus on the warring parties and enabling early effective intervention.
Professional consultations at a sterile office miss a critical component from the equation only achieved by visiting the scene, providing context.
The bonus to all Victorians is to free up Police to perform their broader function.
In this current fiscally stretched environment that the State is facing, it might be very clever to make sure that police are relieved from Domestic situations as soon as possible by the ‘Domestic industry’ players.
As a bonus, this might just see a reduction in the exits from Policing, and Police dealing with the broader Policing function rather than predominantly only one.
A reduction in crime and public disorder would be a just reward applauded by the community.
At no additional cost to the public purse; just a realigning the deck chairs.