‘Giving them out like lollies’: Cops fear internal discipline over youth criminals

by | Jun 11, 2020 | Uncategorised | 2 comments

Police in Alice Springs are avoiding apprehending youth criminals for fear of copping internal punishments for breaches of discipline, an officer has alleged, while the head of the Police Association said he had many concerns about minimum staffing levels.

Changes to the way police are being disciplined internally when dealing with youth criminals have been stark since the Yuendumu shooting, according to the officer, who the NT Independent has chosen not to name. 

“We feel like sacrificial lambs at the moment,” the officer said.

“We had a youth run from an officer the other day and people said to him ‘why didn’t you chase him?’ and the officer said ‘if I chased him and caught him I’d probably have to use force’.  

“If that happens we get charged internally … they go through your body worn cameras and give out ‘79s’.  

“They are just giving them out like lollies … they just get put it on your file and it says you’ve done something wrong.”

The Northern Territory of Australia Police Administration Act 1978 describes a ‘79’ offence as part of police ‘disciplinary powers’. 

A 79A offence requires an officer to answer questions or give information in relation to a breach of discipline, while a 79 offence involves the ‘service of notice for alleged breach of discipline’.

The officer said youth crime was getting worse in Central Australia and the changes to internal discipline meant police officers were apprehensive about doing their jobs.

“The other day there were kids in a stolen car, normally we would go and pursue them,” the officer said.  

“It’s gotten to the point where (officers) will drive to the other side of town to avoid having to arrest them.  

“Most of these kids are on bail under Territory Families and we are not even allowed to report it, to even mention it in our internal reports.  

“That’s how bad it’s getting.”

Police morale has ‘never been so bad’

The Northern Territory Police Association’s pre-election survey, released last week, revealed almost 90 per cent of NT police officers are dissatisfied with the Gunner Government’s performance over its handling of police matters.

The survey found 87 per cent of respondents believe the NT Government does not understand policing issues, while 86.5 per cent believe the government interferes in police operational matters and 62 per cent believe the government does not support police.

Another police officer who works in Alice Springs told the NT Independent they had never seen morale so bad among officers in Central Australia.

“Guys want to get out of Alice, move up to Darwin or Katherine or interstate,” the officer said. 

“We’ve got more leaving than coming in, the ones that have come haven’t filled the gap of the ones that have left.

NTPA president Paul McCue said 90 per cent of the survey’s respondents believed the current recruitment program was ineffective and many had concerns about minimum staffing levels.

“Every shift requires a certain number of police to perform general duties roles,” he said.

“We’ve seen very little increase in those staffing levels … we often have only two teams on the road per shift … it’s not good enough in 2020.

“We need to work urgently on a minimum staffing model.”  

The NT Government was contacted for comment but did not respond.

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