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© 2019 Rosemary Armitage MLC

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Department of Police, Fire & Emergency Management - comments on 2017-18 annual report

April 1, 2019

[12.35 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the member for Windermere for bringing this matter forward and I certainly commend Tasmania Police for the work they do. The graduation of 58 new constables from the Tasmania Police training program in 2017-18 and their ascendance to frontline positions has helped the police build their visible presence. I am sure this factor has contributed to 88 per cent of Tasmanians reporting feeling satisfied with the police, according to the National Survey of Community Satisfaction with Policing undertaken by the Australian National University.

 

In addition to this, I note the clearance rate, the number of crimes resulting in a charge being laid divided by the number of recorded crimes, stands at a 45-year high of 51 per cent. I congratulate the officers and investigators whose hard work has allowed this result to be achieved. The move into the consultation phase of an anti-corruption strategy is an encouraging development towards improving community confidence and trust in the police force. I look forward to hearing about the future phases of its implementation. Tuesday 2 April 2019 22

 

Moreover, the rollout of the system for managing conduct and the review of complaints and compliance through the ABACUS program, made available both internally and publicly, goes some way to attaining a significant degree of transparency, accountability and responsibility for the police force. It is pleasing to see that the recommendations arising from the Integrity Commission's recommendations from its review into the management of information by Tasmania Police are being worked towards.

 

As information systems evolve in growing volume, their management becomes more challenging but ABACUS seems to be adding value to this important area of police administration. In a further step towards responding to public sentiment and expectations and expanding transparency, a working group was established to review the use of force by police for the protection of the public and of Tasmanian police officers. In keeping with international trends, the rolling out of body worn cameras to improve safety by positively influencing the behaviour of not only those in custody but also the police they interact with and enabling the collection of quality evidence with ease is another significant achievement of the force throughout the year.

 

Figures for Launceston specifically concern me. As mentioned by the member for Windermere, given the adjusted volume of crime for a city of some 100 000 people, in April 2018 the Advocate awarded Launceston the highly dubious honour of beating the north-west coast in crime. By Tasmania Police's own figures, Launceston topped the state at 1004 offences per 10 000 people, greater even than Hobart which had 718 offences per 10 000 people.

 

Mr Gaffney - You always want to beat Hobart.

 

Ms ARMITAGE - We do, but not necessarily in these figures. It is not necessarily beating Hobart. As I have stated on many occasions, Hobart, for some reason, thinks it is the centre of the universe and it needs to realise there are other cities in this state. These figures cannot be looked at in a vacuum. It is encouraging that Launceston's rate of crime is decreasing; however, that our northern city should top the state with these figures is disheartening, to say the least. I strongly encourage the department to look at the severity of these statistics, to ramp up its focus on tackling and preventing crime in the state's north, and to reassess use of its resources to allocate more frontline officers to boost visibility and confidence in the police force.

 

Ms Rattray - Do you think this has to do with the fact we have a lower socio-economic group in the north with wages and jobs?

 

Ms ARMITAGE - It is fairly balanced across the state. The member for Windermere might have more of an idea about this, but there are certainly lower socio-economic groups right across the state. I would not have thought Launceston had more than any other parts of the state. The member mentioned his electorate has more social housing issues than most of the state.

 

I express my best wishes to northern-based Inspector Darren Hopkins after his horrific plane crash in October. It was very good to see in the media that he was back at work, even part-time, and looking pretty good. We extend our best wishes to him.

 

I was intrigued by the consistent upward trend in reported family violence incidents over the past five years. In 2017-18, it reached an all-time high at 3385 reported incidents, up from 3155 in 2016-17 and far further up from the 2414 incidents reported in 2013-14. I am conscious of, and mindful, that an increase in reports does not necessarily mean an increase in the occurrence of incidents; however, I believe these numbers should be further analysed and I was therefore Tuesday 2 April 2019 23

 

disappointed that the annual report did not undertake to examine any further the reasons behind this spike in numbers, nor seek to do so in the future given that family and domestic violence is one of the most nefarious and insidious crimes in our society, with comorbidities and additional social ills. I encourage the department to investigate possible reasons for this increase in reported incidents so policymakers can look to addressing their causes.

 

Celebrating 100 years of women in policing in Tasmania is a fine achievement. The growth in diversity in a sector that has historically been so male-dominated is a win for women which deserves to be celebrated. I had to undertake external research to find out who the first female police officer to be appointed was. According to an article by the ABC in December 2017, Constable Kate Campbell joined Tasmania Police in 1917. The trail she blazed and her legacy should have been included in the report to celebrate and acknowledge wholly the success of growing diversity in the force.

 

It has also been pleasing to see initiatives addressing the strain and stress to which police, fire and emergency management employees and volunteers are uniquely subject. The establishment of a proactive program to support their wellbeing is a step in the right direction to ease the toll that some aspects of these jobs can take. I am encouraged by the spotlight being shone on an issue that has been under-resourced for far too long.

 

Additional efforts to understand, confront and prevent the rapidly expanding area of cybercrime was also reported by the secretary, to be ameliorated through the enrolment of certain employees in training and courses to address this area of connectivity. I look forward to seeing wider implementation of cybercrime detection and prevention as a standard element in police training.

 

I thank the member for Windermere for bringing this forward. Certainly, these are interesting statistics and it was an interesting report. Overall, I thank and commend Tasmania Police for the work they do.

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