20th September 2022
Like most of life’s endeavours, when anybody has a problem, they first and foremost have to come to grips with and recognise there is a problem; denial of a problem only works against a solution.
Enterprises like Policing are no different.
Victoria Police has a trust deficit with the community that must be accepted and addressed.
This deficit did not happen overnight and can be traced back to a number of issues that have all contributed.
The list is long and is not a value judgment on each, but the items as a whole have created the current negativity in the community.
The contributing issues
- Black Saturday bushfires. – A former Chief Commissioners’ leadership or severe lack of.
- The George Pell prosecution. – Convicted on what can only be described as implausible and weak evidence. Subsequently overturned by the High Court of Australia.
- Uniform change– The change to a black uniform (Salute Blue) and generally discarding of headdress, the symbol of Office, has had a substantially negative impact on the Force image and authority.
- The Gobbo affair- The ramification of some deplorable and corrupt Victoria Police decisions and performance has resonated across all community sectors and is not fading from the community psyche.
- Quarantine Hotels failure – The public is aware of the efforts by Victoria Police to avoid taking charge of the Quarantine Hotels in the initial stages of the Pandemic. The over 800 deaths may have been avoided if police had taken control initially. That initial role is a Police responsibility, refer to the Police Act.
- Politicians making false claims– Two politicians made bogus claims on travelling entitlements claiming considerable funds from the public purse. The blatant criminal fraud went un-investigated, and perpetrators were not pursued for their crimes.
- COVID-19 response- The decisions in relation to much of the COVID Police response were flawed. No matter how often the counterargument has been proffered that VicPol had no choice given the Chief Health Officers Orders, whilst to a degree this is true, VicPol had discretion on how those orders were applied in the field and failed. This feeds the view that VicPol were carrying out these outrageous responses at the behest of the Government.
- Bourke street massacre– The Court of Public opinion is convinced this matter was handled poorly, resulting in unnecessary loss of life. Generally seen as a Command failure to intervene earlier. Supported by the coronial findings
- Red Shirts – It is difficult for the community to fathom why all the suspected perpetrators were not charged or not even formally interviewed. – given the return of the money was an admission of guilt.
- Branch stacking – Although the stacking is not a police matter per se, many actions seem to be criminal, yet police have not instigated investigations.
- Danni Laidley affair– Like most of the community, we found it improper for police to photograph and distribute photos of Laidley when arrested for Stalking. But the Police response was, for the most part, well over the top. escalating the matter that is seen as petty and a waste of police resources.
- Slug-Gate – This artifice has still not been adequately investigated despite Police claims to the contrary. VicPol just does not seem to grasp the magnitude of the issue. The ICooks’ Slug-Gate’ experience is only a part of the story.
No investigation into what public officers who committed misconduct, misappropriation of public money, or conspiracies in this artifice; Although trite, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, you can bet it is a duck.
- Non-Police duties- The evolution of the Police’s role to assume responsibilities for matters beyond their core business has seen a diminution of Police’s overall function in public safety, preventing crime and disorder.
Additional roles in Domestic Violence and Psych patient management must be resisted and responsibility given back to the agencies responsible.Nothing less than the Police Act establishes the Police role. Subsequent devolution of non-Police roles is an unambiguous contravention of that Act. It is well past time for the Police management to push back; the law is on their side.
- Poor service delivery – in part, but not solely, the misunderstanding of Service delivery, as opposed to Service efficiency has been a culprit but other push factors have contributed.
Of all of these issues, Service delivery, which anecdotally continues to grow seemingly unabated, is the single greatest contributor to the Trust deficit.
The road to recovery will be long and, at times, tedious and perhaps painful, but delaying the task is the worst possible alternative because it will only become harder.
The recently released Corporate Plan provides a guide to the direction Policing must take; however, it is let down by failing to provide measurement strategies to show the community achievements in reaching the goals of the Plan.
We use the word guide deliberately because without clear benchmarking, that is always as strong as the Plan will be.
The first step is, acknowledging that the Victoria police has made errors and vows to address the organisation’s shortcomings for the benefit of all Victorians.
To complete this step, it must be accompanied by tangible objectives heralding change.
A commitment to tackle corruption without fear or favour backed up by action will have a profound and positive impact. Essentially some historical matters need to be resolved; therefore, a line in the sand approach would fail.
As far as operationally possible, no coverups and honest and open communication with the community is essential. No ‘feeding the chooks’ approach so often used.
Focusing on core activities but providing the initial response capacity that Policing is renowned for will take competent management but resonate well with the community.
One initiative that will enable this to be fast tracked will be the development of a Force reserve to give the Force the rapid capacity to respond to Service delivery short falls.
Recruiting in the current environment is problematic where a Reserve force will be a cost-effective alternative with shorter lead times.
With the upcoming Commonwealth Games in a bit over three years ahead this may be the only way to give VicPol the surge capacity to deal with that event.
Additionally with the games spread over a large part of the State reserve members who live in rural centres may alleviate other logistical issues like accommodating Police from elsewhere.
A force-wide attitude of ‘why should we’, needs to be changed to,
‘If you want help, call us.’