20th April 2022
Commentating on matters associated with Victoria Police is fraught with difficulty as we are often faced with conundrums that are particularly hard to decipher.
The current issue gaining community traction is the ‘crisis of trust’ in VicPol, and is a ‘case in point’.
We have all seen and been dismayed at the blatant criminality passed over by Vicpol but minor internal misdemeanours, are pursued with unbridled vigour, albeit many are not malicious.
This leaves the community lamenting why that vigour cannot be applied to blatant and more serious crimes.
Ironically, the current level of leak traffic to the media is directly proportionate to the disquiet of the police members. Police talk when frustrated and people listen, people talk to the journalists and that is how most information is leaked.
Police live in and are part of the community. Something often overlooked by Police Executives.
There appears to be a culture amongst Police executives that they live in a bubble and operate on flawed assumptions. Media letters from the public support this hypothesis.
The consequence of the ‘Bubble effect’ in policing is inward-looking policing rather than the obverse, which is the most effective Policing model, where community expectations are measured and met.
Although community Policing plays an important role in building a Trust surplus, creating an aura of politicisation by assuming a legal role beyond their remit negates these efforts.
Policing is a function for the people, not the few who run it. Trotting out the most inane spin or even worse, non-information, creates conjecture to replace facts within the community further fuelling the Trust Crisis deficit.
From the CAA’s first meeting with Shane Patton to recent times, an oxymoron has evolved. What was said and what we see do not gel.
There have been a number of own goals that have eroded trust but paradoxically they can be resolved and act as a net positive; all it takes is good management and leadership.
The Red Shirts and ICooks (Slug-Gate) matters could be resolved and converted overnight by simply having the matters bought before the Courts and having the Courts the arbiter, not VicPol.
Based, we assume on poor advice, VicPol hunkered down on these two matters but significantly and even at his stage it would not be embarrassing to change tack and properly investigate both matters and put perpetrators before the courts.
That would be leadership, something that the public believes is sadly lacking and will respond to positively.
The other hot issue in the community is the Policing of Anti-vax, Anti-lockdown demonstrations during the pandemic.
This hurt will not heal any time soon.
The community is divided on whether or not the demonstrations should have occurred, but united in condemnation of many of the police tactics.
It would be foolish to assume that opponents of the Police actions are only from the anti-vax lobby.
Rather than have this issue fester away VicPol should exercise strong leadership and acknowledge the community’s anguish and undertake its own public inquiry into the issues with the intent of shaping Police policy. Allowing the public to vent their anger may not be palatable for Police but would lead to effective policy changes.
Patton certainly has had multiple opportunities to right some wrongs, but it gives the appearance that he is not running the show.
For everybody in the CAA who had the privilege of meeting Patton and listening to his blueprint for the future of Policing, we are disappointed in the reality of that commitment.
We strongly suspect an informal cabal of executives similar to when Ashton was Chief is effectively holding sway because VicPol has continued on a similar trajectory from the previous administration to the current one. with little meaningful change apart from some peripheral rhetoric,
Whether that cabal is identifiable as an entity or is a linking of like-minded individuals is difficult to identify. It could be based on social, political or some other commonality but these movements are usually spawned by a leadership vacuum.
The seeds of this problem were cast before Patton’s tenure making the malcontents in the Executive easy to identify.
However, the excuse that it is a big ship to turn around is no longer valid.
There is a risk for Patton that the Government may decide to shorten his tenure so that all the negative aspects of policing, Gobbo, Red Shirts, Slug-gate, Cardinal Pell, some COVID failures, poorly managed Demonstrations, applying Vax mandates and several other issues can be brushed away with his demise.
His best defence is to resolve them.
If he doesn’t he could get to carry out the political baggage before November.
The Government has a strong track record in this dark art.
A newly minted Chief, a political apparatchik or one that has a high profile as a social progressive capable of moving Policing in that direction would be inevitable.
We are told the chatter in high places along these lines is mooted and advanced.
A strong and independent Patton is far more desirable than what the alternative may throw up. There would be no doubt he would know who the underminers are and he should show strength as a leader and remove them.
It is time for Patton to decide whether his legacy will be as a bag carrier, or will he be the Chief Commissioner that turns the ship around and be held up in perpetuity alongside other luminaries that have held this high office.