Secretary's Report (Oct. 2017 Journal)
Secreaty Wayne Gatt, September 2017 Delegates Conference
Continuing to work on your behalf
It’s been a busy few months on a number of fronts, with the emergence of a series of important issues affecting specific pockets of our members across the state.
These issues have centred on members’ equipment, working conditions and their operational independence. As an Association, these are always among our primary concerns, and ones we are proud to advocate for on your behalf.
Importantly, through a great deal of behind the scenes work, we have been able to secure outcomes and commitments from both the government and Victoria Police on these issues, which are detailed on these pages.
During this time, we also held our September Delegates’ Conference. It provided our 57 delegates from across the state with an opportunity to debate a series of key issues that impact our collective.
Just as I represent the Police Association, these delegates represent you.
Their views are your views, and while the role of our delegates is always important it is never more important than it is as we move into preparation mode for the 2018 state election and the 2019 EBA. Your delegates’ voices at our conference has helped inform our views towards both of these important events.
These are the issues and outcomes that have shaped our advocacy on your behalf over recent weeks:
DIGITAL POLICE RADIOS IN REGIONAL AREAS:
The urgent need for the rollout of a digital police radio network in our regional PSAs was highlighted in August when a ‘pirate’ hacked into the police radio frequency in Gippsland and tried to sabotage our members’ response to a pursuit of a vehicle following an armed robbery in Sale.
Fortunately, on this occasion, the fake calls by the pirate to terminate the pursuit were exposed and ignored by members. However, this dangerous and confusing situation simply highlights the archaic and unsecured system that our members in regional areas are forced to endure.
Commitments by the government in recent years to digitise the network are yet to materialise, slowed by a broadening of the original project’s scope. We are assured that these radios are on the way, however we have pressed the government on the need for this project to be delivered without further delay to protect our Police and PSO members and the independence of their investigations.
Whittlesea Police station has been forced to operate at effectively half strength due to four vacant positions remaining unfilled this year. Service delivery is significantly hampered at smaller stations like Whittlesea when even a small number of vacancies are left unfilled.
Our members at this station were left frustrated by the gradual reduction in their strength, a situation compounded by forecasted future cuts to staffing levels once the new Mernda Police Station becomes operational next month.
After a lot of work lobbying both the government and Victoria Police behind the scenes, we were proud to secure a commitment by Victoria Police to immediately fill two vacant positions. Staffing levels will be reassessed following the opening of Mernda Police Station.
The passion of our members at Whittlesea has played a major role in securing this outcome. The support they have within the Whittlesea community was evidenced by the 400 people who turned out for a community meeting on the issue.
I had the chance to speak to, and with, many of these community members and it’s clear that our objectives align. It’s simple; the dedicated service the community has come to rely on, is what they expect to continue, and that can only be achieved through adequately staffing their police station.
Full coverage of this issue can be found inside on Page XX of this edition of the Journal.
PRIVATE SECURITY RIDE-ALONGS
Many of our members based in the Glen Eira and Port Phillip PSAs contacted The Association to express their misgivings about the plan to embed members of a private security group in patrol cars over four Jewish high holy days late last month.
Their concerns were clear, and were shared by myself and The Police Association. While community engagement plays an essential part in policing local communities, it should not expand into arrangements in which the operational independence of our members, or their safety are jeopardised. And, that’s what this unique arrangement threatened to do.
We detailed the concerns of our members to Victoria Police command and were pleased that constructive dialogue enabled us to reach agreement on guidelines that alleviated those concerns while still satisfying the intent of the initiative.
The outcome was that all units tasked for these high holy days were to be proactive units, not tasked as patrol or response units. We will work to ensure that this arrangement sets a precedent for community engagement operations in the future.
FEDERATION LAUNCHES MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS CAMPAIGN
Using the collective voice of our national body, the Police Federation of Australia, we have been able to secure support to the tune of $1 million from the federal government to promote mental health awareness, understanding, prevention and early intervention.
This includes, but is not exclusively geared towards PTSD (there are many forms of mental illness - PTSD is just one aspect)
This will be done through an upcoming media campaign and the production of a documentary-styled video.
We continue to see members impacted by mental health injuries and tragically we are reminded of the seriousness of this issue, and the need for action, by the loss of colleagues and friends all too often.
By educating members on the importance of early detection and destigmatising mental injury, there is hope that there will be less of an impact on members, their families and the workplace.
We will also continue to lobby government for better support services and systems to assist injured members, but we know that injury prevention is better than any cure.
This month, thousands of our members and their families will attend health and well-being education sessions presented by Dr Kevin Gilmartin at locations across Victoria. It’s an initiative supported by Chief Commissioner Ashton who has enabled our members’attendance, showcasing our strong joint commitment to seeing real improvement achieved in this area.