Officers in a fourth Territory police region have voted for the NT Police Association to hold a Territory-wide vote of confidence in Commissioner Jamie Chalker and Deputy Commissioner Murray Smalpage, sources have told the NT Independent.
The latest vote comes as Mr Chalker is on another mysterious period of leave, with the reasons being kept confidential amongst the top brass, and comes only a week after he was forced to issue an extraordinary public statement that he had not resigned.
The Casuarina region held the vote at a Wednesday meeting, with NTPA president Paul McCue in attendance, the sources said, which was part of the union’s tour of the Territory to gauge the rank-and-file’s attitude toward Mr Chalker.
However, once again, members in attendance forced a vote from the floor, which was said to be unanimously in favour of the NTPA holding the vote of confidence, but has no official power.
“Members are talking about stopping to pay membership if the union won’t act,” one source said.
Another said some members were angry at Mr McCue’s seeming resistance to a vote of no confidence in Mr Chalker, and said the union boss could end up being the subject of a vote of confidence himself.
In late April, the Palmerston region meeting of about 60 officers voted almost unanimously for the union to hold a vote, with only one officer voting against the motion.
A “region” known as Specialist Services – which includes the TRG, Air Wing, Water Police, the Dog Unit and Intelligence Unit – also held a recent vote which sources said was unanimous in calling for the NTPA to hold a Territory-wide vote.
Those came following 30 officers in Alice Springs who also voted unanimously the week before for a confidence ballot to be held. These are motions that have come from rank-and-file officers, so the votes have not been organised by the NTPA.
Neither Mr McCue or Mr Chalker would respond to questions put by the NT Independent yesterday.
In an early May radio interview on Mix 104.9, Mr McCue said the NT Police force was “unwell”, but laid the blame on then-police minister Nicole Manison and refrained again from criticising Mr Chalker for a number of failures of leadership, including suspending a senior officer without pay the previous weekend for voicing concerns shared by a large section of the membership about the executive’s “authoritarian” management style and rush to charge Constable Zach Rolfe.
Ms Manison was stripped of the portfolio on Monday by incoming Chief Minister Natasha Fyles, with Kate Worden named the new Police Minister.
Mr McCue defended the slow progress establishing a Territory-wide no confidence vote on Mr Chalker at the time, and said he was not compromised or “exposed”.
“That’s, that’s just completely untrue,” he said.
“Our job is to put those motions to our full regions to have a discussion about … it doesn’t mean it happens overnight.
“It doesn’t mean it won’t happen but it also may not happen …it’s nonsense to suggest we’re compromised”
Mr McCue added that “we got to stop pointing fingers” and “start working together”.
He then claimed the union would not be taking action until “such time as people provide evidence to us that he [Mr Chalker] has done something wrong in terms of that [Rolfe] matter”.
“It’s not like the NTPA can certainly walk in and say ‘your time’s up Commissioner, move on’,” he said, adding the no confidence motion could be debated at the NTPA’s annual conference in August.
However, one source said a vote of confidence in the commissioner did not need evidence of wrongdoing, it was merely reflecting the feelings of police officers about Mr Chalker.
Only ‘small faction’ want a no confidence vote: Murphy said as support grows
Days after Mr McCue’s interview, then-Acting Police Commissioner Michael Murphy – filling in for Mr Chalker who was also then on mysterious and not publicly announced leave – said it was only “a small faction” of officers who wanted a Territory-wide no confidence vote.
“I think there’s a small faction who are agitating and I’ve said it before, it’s a distraction,” he said. “It’s a distraction from the majority of our hard-working police officers who come to work with purpose every day to protect Territorians.”
The now nearly 200 votes for a motion follows the unanimous March Supreme Court not guilty verdict for Constable Rolfe. He was charged with murder four days after the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker during an attempted arrest in Yuendumu in 2019. The charge was arrived at after police running the investigation held a 90-minute meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions where police handed over an unfinished brief of evidence.
The decision to charge has been surrounded in controversy, with yet unproven allegations of political interference.
Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Michael Riches announced he would investigate the four days after the shooting that led to the charge, and has not ruled out former chief minister Michael Gunner being called as a witness in the ICAC investigation into those allegations.
Mr Chalker told the media in the week after the trial that he had no input into the decision to charge Constable Rolfe with murder, but reporting by the NT Independent based on the diary notes of his own detectives, and a report by the ICAC Inspector, showed evidence of his involvement in the investigation five times, in the four days after the shooting.
Both Mr Gunner and Mr Chalker have repeatedly denied any political interference in the charge.
Mr Chalker did not respond to questions about the vote, including whether he would resign if his members continued to turn against him publicly.
He issued a statement last week to say he was not resigning from the role after a local radio station reported he had stood down, but has held no public appearances since that time and police sources said his current whereabouts are a closely-guarded secret.