Tasmania: Police radio ban goes to court
What an absurdity the ban is. Initially "minor" matters can turn out to be major
FRONT-LINE police have been told not to contact the radio room for what management has deemed "routine" checks during peak busy periods, outraged officers have revealed.
The Police Association of Tasmania is preparing to take Tasmania Police to court over what it says are broken promises that are increasingly putting the safety of its officers and the general public at risk. "We're taking them to the Industrial Commission," said Police Association of Tasmania acting president Robbie Dunn.
He says staffing levels in radio dispatch services, housed in the Hobart city police station, were slashed last year despite a promise to maintain what the union considered a minimal level.
The union says front-line police are being told they cannot call in routine checks, such as firearm licence, prior convictions and outstanding warrants checks deemed "unnecessary radio traffic" by management, during "periods of heightened workload".
"This is putting the safety and, realistically, the lives of our officers and the general public at risk," Sgt Dunn said. "Look what happened to Les Cooper." Sgt Cooper was shot in the face and back on the Midland Highway after pulling over a dangerous criminal during a routine traffic check in 2006.
"The communications system has now become such a joke we're not willing to put up with it any longer," Sgt Dunn said. The union will lodge its case with the Industrial Commission within weeks.
Tasmania Police yesterday denied there had been any cutbacks to the radio room. "[During exceptionally busy periods] officers are able to obtain the information in several other ways, via mobile data terminals in police vehicles, through traffic administration staff or crime management units, or they are able to make the checks on return to the station," Inspector Brian Edmonds said.
The union rejects the response. "The data terminals won't work in peak times, such as between 4 and 9pm when they're most needed, because Tasmania Police hasn't bothered to organise and pay for any special deal with Telstra to ensure continuous coverage," Sgt Dunn said.
"When everyone goes home and logs on to their computer or their iPhone or whatever, the network's overloaded and the terminals are useless. That means front-line police are relying entirely on the radio room."
Police sources have repeatedly told the Mercury that morale in the radio room is at an all-time low. Illness and stress-related leave is getting out of hand among the overworked operators. "They feel sick knowing they're not able to provide the appropriate support to front-line officers," Sgt Dunn said.