The State Government has announced a far-reaching package of police reforms to enhance community safety, reinforce public confidence in the police force and support the work of police officers.
Premier Carmen Lawrence said the measures included an increase in the number of police officers and the introduction of a new police complaints system.
"Modern day police forces deserve the support and confidence of the communities they serve," Dr Lawrence said.
"Of course the community also places similar obligations on its police men and women.
"Maintaining that confidence, and respect, demands a commitment and a recognition of the obligations of everybody involved in the enforcement of law and the processes that follow.
"This $10 million package acknowledges the increasing workload on police officers in the 1990s and the community's desire for a well-equipped and publicly accountable police force."
An extra 227 police officers would become available for operational duties during the next six months. There would be 100 new police recruits and 127 officers freed from court and clerical duties by government employees from other departments.
"Under this plan, we will have 70 more officers in active policing roles by Christmas and the balance progressively deployed over the next six months," she said.
"The outcome will be that in Western Australia there will be one police officer for every 380 people - the best ratio of any State in Australia."
Announcing the package with Police Commissioner Brian Bull today, Dr Lawrence said a number of issues had been under consideration for some time. The Government had now decided to implement a range of measures including:
· the appointment of a senior District Court judge, a former Royal Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and a university professor to help set up WA's new Police Board;
· immediate changes to police complaints procedures, with the establishment of a Police Complaints Bureau, within the office of the Ombudsman, and a Joint Review Committee to oversee police investigations of complaints;
· new measures to ensure that all people taken into police custody are made aware of their basic rights;
· legislation aimed at reducing the number of police arrests, by encouraging the use of summonses, particularly when dealing with juveniles;
· extension of the powers of Aboriginal police aides;
· $50,000 to be provided immediately to staff the nursing post at East Perth lockup on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 8 pm until 3 am.
The Government's objective is to significantly increase police presence and visibility in the community. Direct involvement with the community is considered to be the police force's best way of combating crime.
The Government will move immediately to expand police recruitment and relieve many officers from clerical and office duties.
This will be done by:
· inducting 100 new recruits;
· freeing 57 police officers from court and other duties;
· transferring 70 public sector employees to the Police Department to free police officers for operational duties.
The increase in police resources brings to 1,000 the number of extra police officers made available for police work over the past four years.
The Government will take on 100 extra recruits to be trained in three intakes over a period of six months, beginning next month. By Christmas, 70 Government employees will be transferred to the Police Department, to support the work of uniformed officers and free them to attend to operational duties. A total of 24 employees, 11 part-time, will be attached to country police stations.
Another 57 police officers will be released from their duties at major lockups, Central Law Courts and the Court Orderly Service. They will be replaced by staff from outside the police force under a new system currently being examined by the Minister for Police. Sufficient police will be retained for protection of the courts.
Counselling: The Government will provide two additional staff for the Police Health Unit. This will extend the program of counselling for police officers and staff suffering from stress and other problems.
ABORIGINAL POLICE AUXILIARIES:
Aborigines comprise more than half the prison population in Western Australia but less than three per cent of the population.
An Aboriginal Police Auxilary will be established to increase crime prevention and community liaison activities. Police aides will be given new powers as Aboriginal auxiliary constables deal with a wider range of community policing issues.
Auxilary constables will be attached to appropriate suburban police stations and community policing units, as well as Aboriginal communities.
Clearer career paths will be established for Aboriginal auxiliary constables in recognition of their important role in improving Police-Aboriginal relations.
The Police Department will encourage more Aboriginal people to pursue police careers.
The Government will set up a Police Board as the supreme policy-making body on police matters, providing community involvement in decision-making and issues of broad community concern.
It will scrutinise police resources and priorities, training, management systems, ethics and accountability. It will ensure the Police Force adopts the highest standards of conduct.
The board will not handle complaints against police, but will have a role in combating any systemic problems revealed by complaints or patterns of complaints.
The Commissioner of Police will retain operational command and responsibility for the day-to-day management of the police force.
The board will report annually to Parliament through the Minister for Police.
A five-member interim board will be established immediately comprising Judge Sadlier of the District Court, Professor Irene Froyland of the Edith Cowan University's Police Research Centre, Mr Pat Dodson, a former Royal Commissioner into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and Police Commissioner Brian Bull.
Mr Keith Mattingley, foundation chairman of the WA Community Policing Council and a former West Australian Newspapers managing director, will be chairman of the interim group.
One of the first tasks of the interim board will be to call for public submissions on the roles and responsibilities of the permanent board. Its other duties will be to:
· identify priority issues for consideration by the new board;
· recommend the structure and functions of the permanent board, taking into account the experience of police boards in other States;
· consider the appropriate relationship between the Minister, the Police Board and the Police Commissioner.
The interim board will report in January on its proposals for the permanent board.
The Government will move immediately to improve procedures for dealing with complaints against the police.
The main features of the new system, which will be implemented by January are:
· the establishment of a Police Complaints Bureau within the Office of the Ombudsman. Additional resources will be provided to the Ombudsman for the establishment of the Bureau which will be a clearing house for receiving and following up all complaints made against the police;
· the establishment of a Joint Review Committee, comprising the Ombudsman or his representative and the Commissioner of Police or his representative, which will oversee police investigations of complaints against police. This will enable oversight of police investigations from the outset where necessary.
Under the new system complaints may be made directly to the Police Complaints Bureau, a police station or to the Commissioner of Police. The Police Complaints Bureau will be notified of all complaints.
Minor complaints may be conciliated by the Police, but the Police Complaints Bureau will be notified of the resolution of such complaints and the Ombudsman may take further action if he considers it necessary.
Similarly, with more serious complaints, the Ombudsman can decide to make his own further inquiries under his existing powers if he determines that the initial police investigation is inadequate.
Early next year, the Government will legislate to clarify the Ombudsman's authority to initiate investigations within these new arrangements without a formal complaint being laid if he judges such investigations to be in the public interest.
In addition, complaints alleging serious criminal misconduct will be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In all cases, the Ombudsman can make appropriate recommendations for resolution of complaints, including recommendations to the Commissioner of Police for disciplinary action.
The Police Complaints Bureau will advise complainants of the outcome of their complaint in all cases.
In addition to these significant changes, the Government has announced its intention to establish a Commission for the Investigation of Corrupt and Improper Conduct as recommended by the Royal Commission. CICIC will be independent, and will have its own investigative powers and resources. It is anticipated that complaints of corruption and very serious police misconduct will be referred to CICIC for independent investigation.
Taken together these substantial reforms to existing police complaints procedures will ensure:
· speedier resolutions of complaints at all levels;
· specific provision for conciliation of complaints wherever possible;
· an obligation to advise complainants of the outcome of their complaints;
· independent oversight of all investigations of complaints;
· independent investigations of complaints of corruption and serious misconduct.
The Government, through the Commissioner of Police, will ensure Western Australians are made aware of their basic rights when dealing with police. This process will ensure that individuals and the police are clear about their rights and responsibilities.
Some rights already are contained in orders issued by the Commissioner but they are not binding in court. The Government will legislate to make them binding and it will create new rights.
In Custody: All people taken into custody will be made aware of their basic rights which will be detailed on a sign prominently displayed in lockups.
These rights are currently included in routine orders issued to all police by the Police Commissioner. They are:
· the right to make a telephone call to a family member or friend and legal adviser;
· the right to have bail on reasonable conditions considered without delay;
· the right to medical examination and hospital treatment, where necessary;
· the right (if detained in custody) to have safety and welfare needs determined by police at regular intervals;
· the right to be treated in a dignified and humane way;
· the right to complain about mistreatment to the Ombudsman and to be provided with material necessary to make the complaint.
The Government will enshrine in legislation the rights to telephone calls and medical attention.
The Government also will legislate to provide a child with the right to have an independent adult present when taken into custody. The legislation will oblige police to ensure an adult is present.
Dealing with Police: The Government will legislate next year to require an officer to consider proceeding by summons rather than arrest in every case when charging a member of the public.
Arrest will be allowed only in special and defined circumstances.
The Government is concerned that police resources are being unnecessarily tied up by the arrest of people who pose no real threat to the community and are likely to respond to a request to attend court. In these cases, a summons or the use of a citation-type system may be preferable.
Citation notices will be trialled to ascertain how effective they can be in freeing up police procedures. Unlike a summons, which requires endorsement by a Justice of the Peace and service on a defendant, a citation notice is in effect an on-the-spot summons to attend court.
This issue has added relevance when children are involved.
Video surveillance: The Government will extend video surveillance cameras to all major lockups. Cameras are currently installed at East Perth, Fremantle and the Perth Traffic Patrol headquarters. These will be extended to Armadale, Midland and Joondalup as well as major country centres.
Fingerprints: Generally, if a person is not convicted, he/she is legally entitled to require all particulars of identification obtained by police, including photographs and fingerprints, to be destroyed. The Government will strengthen this provision by requiring such destruction automatically, without a request.