Road Policing

Road policing is a fundamental part of police work.

Currently, Victoria has one of the lowest levels of visible enforcement in the country when it comes to road policing. However, safety risks for our members are rising, in part due to the elevated terror threat in Australia. This changing and increasingly dangerous environment now rightly requires that our members no longer work alone. This non-negotiable safety measure has, in part, contributed to a 25 percent reduction in traffic enforcement activities and a 33 percent decline in police visibility since its introduction.

If the Government’s commitment to zero road fatalities is to be achieved, this trend must be reversed.

The Association sees benefit in a centralised model of road policing, with this model being supported by the majority of our membership. (reference 1)

A centralised model enhances efficiency and coordination of road policing activities across the state. Further, TPAV prioritises three core issues in relation to road policing activities: drug testing, vehicle rammings, and police pursuits.

Extensive research and feedback from our membership, as well as analysis of current crime trends, has resulted in the following recommendations to government:

1. Centralised Road Policing

A recent survey conducted by TPAV of all road policing members (reference 2), found 92 percent of Victoria Police’s road police operatives believe the current decentralised staffing structure is not conducive to optimal road safety outcomes for the Victorian community.

A solid majority of members suggested adopting a centralised service delivery model for road policing that would effectively support the ‘Toward Zero’ strategy. Further, the majority of members identified Road Policing Command as the appropriate area for coordination.

Our members recognise that a change to their service delivery model will allow road policing members to focus on core road policing functions, something that is presently being diluted by the increasing use of Highway Patrol resources to supplement depleted frontline general duties resources. Refocusing road police on their core function of policing our roads will improve visible police presence and should support efforts to reduce road-related trauma and deaths.

Recommendations:

  • Victoria Police should adopt a centralised model of road policing service delivery.
  • Any model adopted should be intelligence-led, give special regard to local intelligence, and provide for a degree of local tasking autonomy.
  • A new centralised model should provide for a dedicated Inspector’s position in each division to oversee local traffic operations.
  • The Staff Allocation Model must consider the current and future resourcing requirements of the Road Policing Command based on service delivery requirements - specifically the impacts much-needed recent safety policies have had on service delivery.
  • In order to improve police visibility and to allow road policing members to focus on their core task of maximising road safety and helping to reduce Victoria’s road toll, there should be an additional 500 police dedicated to road policing comprising 400 Highway Patrol operatives and 100 specialist Road Policing members progressively over the next five years.

 

2. Drug testing

TPAV acknowledges that the Government is introducing new offences for refusing a roadside drug test, strengthening penalties for drug driving and drink driving, as well as introducing interlocks for more offences.

While giving consideration to the above, we submit that current protocols and legislation are leaving Victorian drivers vulnerable. Police lack the powers to immediately take action against those that test positive in a preliminary roadside drug test. Instead they are forced to try and find offenders after secondary testing has been concluded at a laboratory. During this time, drug-affected offenders remain on our roads. As is the case with positive alcohol-related preliminary breath tests, police should have the power to remove these dangerous drivers from the road immediately.

Recommendation:

  • Every police vehicle should have the capacity to conduct preliminary oral fluid drug tests on drivers. Police must also be able to issue infringements and commence proceedings without the need for costly secondary testing which currently result in significant delays to the administration of justice.

 

3. Vehicle Ramming

More than 230 Victorian police cars have been rammed in the past two years. That’s 230 times police have been called to respond to a crime and have left the scene as the victims. This is not only unacceptable, but the prevalence of ramming in Victoria far exceeds that experienced by our counterparts interstate. This issue has emerged to become one of the most significant OHS issues facing our members. Ramming police, up until recently, was a rare event, but now it is occurring at an average of twice a week. We urgently need to deter criminals from engaging in such dangerous and despicable behaviour.

We welcome the support of both the government and the opposition on this issue. Both sides of politics have committed to the introduction of new laws that carry penalties befitting the seriousness of the crime and the harm it causes within the policing community. These laws, when introduced, should serve as a deterrent to this offending, however the efficacy and performance of the courts with respect to this issue must be closely monitored.

Recommendation:

  • That the nature and frequency of police rammings and the appropriateness of sentences determined by the courts are monitored over the next ve years to assess the efficacy and success of new legislation and to determine the need for further legislative amendment, if required.

 

4. Police Pursuits

TPAV members were recently surveyed regarding the pursuit policy, with 93 percent of respondents stating that the current pursuit policy is inadequate.

When considering the forms of support needed to bring a pursuit to a safe end, or negate the need to pursue further, members advocated the need to adopt an array of appropriate and emerging technologies which police can use to bring pursuits to a safe conclusion.

Given the rapid pace of technological advancement and the four years that have elapsed since these technological options were last considered, the merits of such options must be revisited.

In this technological age, it is hard to reconcile the fact that police pursuits continue to be controlled from the driver’s seat of a busy patrol vehicle, without the benefit of any real-time information (reference 3). Since January 2016, TPAV has advocated that pursuits should be coordinated centrally by a Pursuit Controller, an initiative that could only improve the police response to managing pursuits (reference 4).

 

1  The Police Association of Victoria, Optimising Road Policing Service Delivery, Research Report, (The Police Association of Victoria, 2017), p. 3
2  The Police Association of Victoria, Optimising Road Policing Service Delivery, Research Report, (The Police Association of Victoria, 2017)
3 The Police Association of Victoria, Pursuit Policy Review, Research Report, (The Police Association of Victoria, 2016)
4 The Police Association of Victoria, Pursuit Policy Review, Research Report, (The Police Association of Victoria, 2016)