Sunday, June 2, 2013

Deadhead W.A. cops

SERIOUS criminal cases including murder, rape and assault could be going unsolved because police have failed to do basic forensic work.

The Sunday Times can reveal that police will overhaul how cases are handled after an internal audit of more than 100,000 arrests found more than two-thirds of people charged for serious offences did not have their "identifying particulars" such as DNA or fingerprints recorded.

In 30 per cent of the cases, in which particulars were taken, they weren't properly recorded.

Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was clearly not good enough. "WA Police is concerned about any gaps in the collection of identifying particulars and we are working to correct this," he said.

"It is unclear what the underlying causes have been, but we have set out to educate, better train and supervise our people about the absolute importance of this process to solving current, historical and future serious crimes."

Mr Dawson said systems were being sought that would ensure prosecution briefs and detention processes could not be completed until all offenders have been sampled, fingerprinted and photographed.

Details of the police audit were recently highlighted in an internal weekly police publication sent to every WA officer.
It found that of more than 100,000 arrests made in WA in 2011 only 31.5 per cent of people charged with a serious offence had their identifying particulars recorded.

WA police forensic division superintendent Tony Flack said getting identifying particulars from charged people was essential in cracking outstanding cases and preventing crime.

"Taking IP (identifying particulars) is not an optional extra and we continue to lose investigative opportunities every time we don't take a sample," he wrote in the weekly publication.

Mr Flack said it had been suggested that officers might not be taking IP because they did not fully understand their rights.

Legislation introduced in 2002 allows police to take DNA samples from people charged with or suspected of committing a serious offence that carries a penalty of 12 months or more.

That can range from shop-lifting, to assault, or more serious crimes such as rape and murder.

Mr Dawson said some of the 68 per cent of people who did not have their identifying particulars taken in the 2011 audit period might have already supplied them to police because they were repeat offenders.

But The Sunday Times understands the confidential police audit found most of those 68 per cent had no DNA police record prior to 2011.

WA Police Union president George Tilbury said officers were being pressured to deal with offenders quickly and as a result were not taking DNA samples or fingerprints as often as they should be.

"Sufficient resources will ensure that all (identifying) particulars can be taken and investigations can be extensively concluded," he said.

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