8 December 2021

Underwhelming police response times a symptom of officer shortage says AFPA

| Max O'Driscoll
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police officer on a construction site

ACT Policing failed to meet key performance measures throughout the 2020/21 financial year. Photo: ACT Policing.

Despite achieving 14 of its 19 performance measures in the 2020/2021 financial year, ACT Policing failed to meet several key targets, according to its annual report.

Perhaps most significant is its failure to meet response time targets for priority incident callouts. In terms of life-threatening or critical incidents (Priority One), the targeted arrival time is within 10 minutes. ACT Policing aimed to arrive within this timeframe at least 80 per cent of the time. It achieved 77.5 per cent.

While this is only a fraction below the target, in the 2019/20 year of reporting, ACT Policing responded to priority callouts within 10 minutes 85.6 per cent of the time. The 77.5 per cent figure is the worst performance by ACT Policing on this measure in seven years of reporting.

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For Priority Two incidents, in which the target response time is within 20 minutes, ACT Policing achieved 73.6 per cent. In this area, the ACT has regressed each year since 2014/15 when it met the 20-minute timeframe on 92.6 per cent of occasions.

The report noted that calls for Priority Two matters have increased by 58 per cent in the last seven years and by 16 per cent over the previous year.

ACT Policing also failed to reach targets relating to the number of offences reported and the percentage of offences against the person cleared.

In promising news, property theft was well below the targeted measure of 8,300 or fewer offences per 100,000 population – 3,905.7 offences were recorded. Of property thefts, motor vehicle theft was the only category of property theft to increase, increasing at a rate of 5.9 per cent and making it the third successive year of increases.

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For the Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA), the report confirms a number of issues they’ve raised in recent times, particularly surrounding an officer shortage.

Media and government relations manager at the AFPA Troy Roberts said response times were not met due to “not having enough police officers on the ground”.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that response times are going to suffer from having fewer police officers on the road,” said Mr Roberts.

“Canberra’s growing, the population’s growing, the geographical footprint is growing, but police numbers aren’t growing.”

Similarly, for offence clearance rates, he believes a downturn comes from officer resources spread thin throughout the ACT, and while he does believe the integration of a new online reporting system for minor property crimes over the next 12 months will help officers, he worries the system fails to meet community expectations.

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Other important statistics featured in the report were a decrease by 200 in drug offences, as well as a significant decline in total sexual assault offences, and a significant increase in homicide offences.

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Labor minister for policing Mick Gentleman in question time just last week: ‘I do
not think they [the AFPA] have categorically said that this is a resourcing issue’. AFPA spokesman: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that response times are going to suffer from having fewer police officers on the road’.

In mid-2020, at 3am in the morning, I saved a woman being beaten to death in the street by her partner.

I then spent 14 minutes in the street, staying alive, as he tried to kill me with an axe, and made dozens of death threats to me and my kids.

Cops took 14 minutes to get to me.

He was released at 7am without charge when their shifts ended. True story.

I would like to know who authorised the release. Not good enough.

I doubt what you say is entirely true. FV matters are taken very seriously by ACT Policing and they put every FV offender before a magistrate on the day of the offence – or the Monday if it occurs on a Saturday afternoon/night or Sunday.

100% true. I went out at 306am, saved her, chased him away, he was back 30 seconds later with a wood splitter axe. Cops didn’t arrive til 320am, and tbh, it felt like 30 mins.
Her face was like a football gone flat, when one side of the ball goes concave.
Cops came, took him into custody. Apparently she refused to make a statement. Despite my statement, my partners, my CCTV, a neighbour’s statement, and what the two officers saw witnessed when they turned up, the guy was released at 7am that day.
Whatever you assume or expect of your government, I can tell you that the reality is faaaaarrr off.
For years, we’ve all been told about DV and violence and abuse against women in our midst. A woman killed every week.
I stood up, I stepped in, I got involved, and I was almost killed for it.
Sure, throw your stones assuming that the way you want society and the state is how it is.

Not throwing stones, I just know that ACT Policing has a zero tolerance for FV – just like they do for DUI’s.

Out of curiosity, why didn’t you press charges?

I tried. The two responding uniforms did nothing. The offender was released at 7am when their shifts ended. They had enough to charge, but decided not to. That day, the duty sergeant threatened to charge me too, for me defending the woman, and then defending myself. Bit I risked that, and insisted (yes, I had to insist) on making a statement. I provided the CCTV footage, and even found the neighbour who then spoke to ACT Policing. Still nothing.

The problem with ACT police response times is real, my anecdotal experience shows it is (3am in the morning, no traffic, cops should’ve reached me in 5 mins, not 14).

But the bigger point I should have made extremely clear in my first comment is that ACT Policing have bigger flaws to fix, and it’s not the numbers of people in uniforms. They do not go as far as they should to protect us.

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