Police union frustrated as proactive officers deployed to tackle soaring road toll

Published in the Sunday Herald Sun on June 9, 2019

Police are being pulled from crime-prevention units to patrol Victoria’s roads in a desperate effort to cut the road toll.

The measure — being used this long weekend — has frustrated the police union, which says it’s a sign that a major overhaul of road policing is needed.

But the force maintains it is part of an officer’s job.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt said law enforcement on the roads was reduced significantly as a squeeze on resources took hold.

He said targeting drug-affected drivers and motorcyclists, who made up 40 per cent of road deaths in the past five years, was crucial.

“Detecting drug drivers on our roads won’t be dealt with by traffic cameras, it won’t be dealt with by TV campaigns — it will be dealt with by active enforcement from police, and to do that they need the resources to get the job done,’’ Mr Gatt said.

“Our uniformed police are told they’re expected to contribute to enforcing road safety and helping to prevent road trauma through enforcement.

“That’s the ideal, but sadly it’s far from reality.

“Our uniformed police are bouncing from job to job, crime after crime, trying to keep up with the cycle because our stations are operating at the bare minimum, and sometimes below.”

The Sunday Herald Sun has confirmed proactive youth resource officers from the North West Metro region will this weekend be used to bolster the number of officers patrolling the roads.

Mr Gatt has written to force command concerned at the move, saying it was symptomatic of a need for 500 extra road police to combat a 25 per cent drop in traffic-enforcement activities since police started working two-up for safety.

He said frontline officers at stations who once patrolled local roads between jobs were now also being caught up with consecutive call-outs.

It was common for them to work up to two hours’ unpaid overtime a day dealing with paperwork.

Victoria’s road toll this year is at a 14-year high. Already 146 people have died, compared with 89 at the same time last year.

“Our members are telling us that they simply don’t have the focus on road policing that they once did,” Mr Gatt said.

“Road policing was never ever a sole responsibility of the highway patrol.

Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said: “Law enforcement is every single police officer’s responsibility.’’

“This weekend we tasked our proactive police in the northwestern suburbs to conduct road policing duties,’’ he said.

An extra 30 highway patrol staff to be inducted during the next year are being fast-tracked.

“This year’s road toll is devastating, and we will continue to do all we can to turn this around,’’ Police Minister Lisa Neville said.