Call for offenders who ram police cars to pay for the damage

Published in the Sunday Herald Sun on April 28, 2019

HUNDREDS of crooks who have rammed police vehicles in the past two years have not only risked officers’ lives but caused more than $800,000 damage to their patrol cars.

Now the head of Victoria’s police union has called for the repair costs to be borne by offenders, not taxpayers.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal that vandalised police vehicles have cost the taxpayer almost $45,000 during the same period.

Police figures obtained under freedom of information laws show more than 270 police vehicles were rammed between 2017 and 2018. The average cost to fix each one was almost $3000.

Twenty vehicles were vandalised — four of them all over.

Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said the ramming of police cars was a “huge concern”.

“Of recent times we have seen increased instances of ramming of police cars by criminals trying to avoid arrest. In doing so they obviously are placing our members’ personal safety at risk,” Mr Patton said.

“We fully investigate every one of these matters to ensure criminals are held to account and charged.”

Anyone who intentionally or recklessly rams or attempts to ram a police vehicle faces stiffer penalties under laws introduced last year.

New penalties and offences include up to 20 years in jail for intentionally driving at an officer, up to 10 years for recklessly driving at an officer, and five years for damaging a police vehicle.

Mr Patton said the cost to police officers in injury and trauma following a ramming should not be underestimated.

“Aside from physical injuries, the mental trauma of being subjected to such an attack, a criminal driving at you in a car and ramming you, can last a lifetime,” he said.

“It is for this very reason we worked with government to get legislation specifically introduced for this type of offending and it carries significant penalties.”

Police Association Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt said rammings were “cowardly”.

“The resultant damage to police vehicles means that those vehicles and the patrols they facilitate in the community are lost until repairs are carried out,” Mr Gatt said.

“We believe that the cost of those repairs should be borne by the offender, not by taxpayers.

“The scourge of rammings in Victoria, which at its peak reached three a week, needed to be addressed and the Police Association lobbied long and hard for specific ramming legislation to be introduced.

“Rammers belong in the slammer.”