If you want an insight into the attitudes and beliefs of frontline police officers, their Union’s journal is an illuminating place to look. The latest edition has an article (p.21) attacking the Commissioner of Police Ian Stewart, shortly before his appointment to the job is up for renewal. The news media picked it up with enthusiasm. The most interesting thing about Senior Sergeant Phil Notaro’s attack is some of the points he chose to complain about.
If you see an RBT, simply chuck a
u-turn and drive away: the police
won’t chase you.
If you don’t want to register your car,
then don’t. You can drive around for
years, as long as you don’t stop for
the police. They won’t chase you and
so you will never be caught, because
police can’t trace you if your car is not
The police stopped chasing many cars because the chases were killing innocent people, like 13 year old schoolgirl, Caitlin Hanrick, who was killed while walking across a road at her school. Between June 2005 and July 2008 ten people died in or following a police pursuit in Queensland. The State Coroner recommended major changes to the policy about chases. Sadly, no-one would learn anything about that from reading SSgt Notaro’s article. It is clearly not part of his thinking on the subject, not even worth a mention.
The previous Commissioner gave evidence about the old culture of chasing for anything and everything. He said:
Essentially, police would pursue for any reason, (for example) an unregistered motor vehicle, and they would continue that pursuit unrelentingly. As well, regrettably, at that time the culture of the organisation was such that that was (considered) an entirely appropriate and proper thing to do in terms of the apprehension of offenders. So much so, that if here in Brisbane the person at the police communications centre who was in charge of the pursuit called the pursuit off over the radio system, there would be cat calls and abuse directed at that person who had terminated the pursuit.
Some of those cat calling officers are apparently still in the service, chafing at the restriction on their right to race helter-skelter through the town in pursuit of an unregistered car.
On another topic, SSgt Notaro complains:
We are seeing numerous police
charged with criminal offences such
as computer hacking. We are now
told we should not be curious. Every
check we do may be scrutinised.
This is SSgt Notaro’s response to the many police officers now in trouble for breaking the law by abusing their access to the police computer system, using it to research their private interests. Renee Eaves, a proven victim of an unlawful arrest, had her private information accessed more than 1,400 times. Since 1st July 2015, the Crime and Corruption Commission has completed 15 investigations into unauthorised access to confidential information, resulting in 81 criminal charges and 11 recommendations for police to be suspended or otherwise disciplined. Sergeant Steven Wright pleaded guilty to accessing the computer 80 times for entirely personal reasons, including to look up personal, confidential information about the Australian netball player Laura Geitz. Again, the reader would not find any details about that from SSgt Notaro’s article. He apparently thinks these crimes should go unpunished. Or perhaps his real complaint goes to the deeper issue; police officers “may be scrutinised”.
The Union chose to publish these complaints in its Journal. SSgt Notaro is a regional representative for the Union. He, at least, must expect that his opinions are shared by many of his police colleagues in the rank and file. The article displays a dangerous and unbalanced sense of special entitlement; an entitlement to risk death or injury to the public for the sake of pursuing minor offenders, an entitlement to take advantage of access to the police computer for personal amusement or gain, a resentment of being held to account, even a resentment of having to obey the law like everyone else. It seems there is still a long way to go before the Queensland public can have confidence that the rot has been removed from the culture of our police service.