The ACT Government has signed an $800 million agreement with the Australian Federal Police for it to deliver community police services over the next four years.
Unlike in other jurisdictions, the ACT does not provide its own independent police force. Instead, officers are contracted from the AFP.
Over the next four years, the ACT will pay around $17 million every month for policing.
That’s an increase on the last financial year’s (2021-22) appropriation in which the Government paid almost $15 million to the AFP every month.
Police Minister Mick Gentleman announced the new agreement on Friday (25 November), saying it meant Canberrans would benefit from the skills and resources of the most sophisticated police force in the country.
“As part of the agreement process, we have also set out a range of shared priorities. These include reducing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system, improving sexual assault prevention and responses, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and combatting dangerous driving,” he said.
“ACT Policing and the AFP have also committed to working together on the service delivery changes in raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility.”
Those comments were echoed by Australian Federal Police (AFP) Commissioner Reece Kershaw.
“The residents of the ACT benefit from the combined support of the entire AFP – as we saw earlier this year when AFP officers from across Australia assisted with significant protest activity here in Canberra,” he said.
“The AFP in turn benefits from the unique skills and experience that officers from community policing provide.”
Part of the new agreement will require the Chief Police Officer to write a statement of intent to set out the “strategies and plans” ACT Policing will put in place to address the Government’s priorities.
The agreement doesn’t specifically identify whether the increase in funding will go towards increasing the number of police in the ACT, although Police Minister Mick Gentleman has been contacted for comment on this.
That’s something the Opposition and police union have long been calling for, arguing the police force had not grown in line with the city’s population.
According to the Productivity Commission’s latest dataset, the number of operational police per 100,000 people in 2021 was the lowest in the country (219) in the Territory. Non-operational staff figures were the fourth-highest, however.
An announcement last year from ACT Police that it would no longer be responding in person to every report of property crime only served to add fuel to the fire of those who believe there just aren’t enough police on the beat.
In public hearings being conducted as part of an ongoing dangerous driving inquiry, Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan last month said resourcing issues meant it wasn’t possible for police to respond to every report of street racing – particularly on rural roads.
“There are thousands and thousands of kilometres of roads in the Territory and we can’t be everywhere at all times,” he said.
Nonetheless, he encouraged people to keep reporting it.