November 09, 2018 05:45:26

The declare

With Victoria’s crime price centre-stage on this month’s state election, Labor’s document on police resourcing is beneath assault from the Liberal Social gathering.

Opposition police spokesman Edward O’Donohue has repeatedly claimed frontline police have decreased beneath Premier Daniel Andrews, saying a number of instances all through September and October 2018:

“Frontline police numbers have fallen beneath Labor with Police Affiliation figures exhibiting there at the moment are 190 fewer uniform officers than in 2013 regardless of Victoria’s inhabitants growing by over half 1,000,000.”

However the Authorities rejects this, touting its five-year plan to recruit 3,125 police and arguing there are “extra frontline police now than ever earlier than”.

Have frontline police been reduce by the Andrews Authorities? And is Mr O’Donohue justified in citing the 190 determine?

RMIT ABC Reality Test investigates.

The decision

Mr O’Donohue’s declare is deceptive.

The determine he cites covers considerably greater than the interval Labor has been in workplace, so can’t be used to evaluate the document of only one authorities.

There may be additionally no agreed definition of what “the entrance line” means. One UK survey confirmed that the general public takes it to imply various things.

The definition relied on by Mr O’Donohue is completely different from that utilized by Victoria Police, for instance, whose knowledge reveals frontline police elevated beneath Labor by round 1,000 full-time equal workers.

The general improve in police numbers shouldn’t be acknowledged in Mr O’Donohue’s numerous press releases.

Specialists consulted by Reality Test stated specializing in emergency responses and road patrols was a slim approach to view police resourcing.

Taking a broader view, the Productiveness Fee measures the variety of police immediately serving the neighborhood. Its newest knowledge reveals the variety of these police elevated beneath Labor.

And whereas Mr O’Donohue has supported police union criticisms that too many police are going to taskforces, it’s police, slightly than authorities, that makes staffing choices, although consultants stated these choices could be influenced by politics.

Poor timing

The Andrews Authorities started its four-year time period on December 4, 2014, however Mr O’Donohue stated frontline police had fallen “beneath Labor” since 2013.

His declare makes clear he’s utilizing figures from Victoria’s police union, the Police Affiliation.

A spokesman for the affiliation informed Reality Test it conducts a headcount of all frontline police each 5 years, with its newest recording a lower from 6,325 officers to six,135 between March 2013 and March 2018.

Nevertheless it didn’t gather knowledge for the intervening years, that means its figures can’t be used to infer when any cuts befell, and whether or not that was beneath the earlier Coalition authorities that held workplace for the primary 20 months of the rely.

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Notably, the affiliation figures are in headcount phrases, and don’t think about hours labored.

What ‘entrance line’ is he speaking about?

In reaching the 190 determine cited by Mr O’Donohue, the affiliation has used a selected definition of “the entrance line”.

In its view, frontline police means “normal duties uniform police at police stations, members who’re tasked with manning patrol vans and responding to lively crimes and requires help from the general public”.

This definition consists of emergency response and normal duties cops however excludes sworn police in specialist roles equivalent to freeway patrol or taskforces devoted to explicit sorts of crime, together with household violence.

However Terry Goldsworthy, a former police officer and now criminologist with Bond College, stated any officer in a police automotive could be tasked with responding to emergency incidents.

“So it is ludicrous to say these sorts of items [e.g. detectives or highway patrol] usually are not frontline police. They don’t seem to be performing normal duties, but when a visitors accident occurs in entrance of them, or a criminal offense occurs in entrance of them, they’re responding.”

Mr O’Donohue has made his declare in numerous contexts — typically referring on to emergency responders, different instances to security extra usually.

On October 9, he tweeted: “Whereas frontline police numbers have been reduce by 190 beneath Daniel Andrews, a @MatthewGuyMP Govt will concentrate on a powerful seen, proactive police presence with extra police on the beat and in native communities.”

Not the one definition

Although Mr O’Donohue has relied on the affiliation’s frontline definition, it isn’t the one one on the market — and consultants could not level to an agreed one.

Darren Palmer, a criminologist with Deakin College, stated the time period frontline was used politically and had “no strict operational definition”.

Dr Goldsworthy stated the time period was “very deceptive, and fully selective”.

Victoria Police informed Reality Test it defines frontline police as “not solely the assets based mostly on the police stations, but additionally these servicing native communities”.

“This consists of plenty of divisional assets together with Freeway Patrols, Crime Investigation Items and Sexual Offences and Baby Abuse Groups, to reply to requires help, examine crime and take care of highway trauma,” a spokeswoman stated.

The UK Authorities explored the controversy over definitions by a 2011 inquiry, which consulted police and surveyed roughly 1,000 members of the general public.

“Most of these consulted agreed that … specialist roles (e.g. these in prison investigation departments) have been entrance line,” the report discovered.

However the outcomes additionally revealed various opinions on what else was included:

“A transparent majority of the general public noticed name handlers as entrance line; a small majority thought custody officers have been entrance line; and a minority noticed intelligence-processing roles as entrance line.”

What the consultants say

Policing consultants consulted by Reality Test stated specializing in road patrols and emergency responses was a slim approach to view police companies.

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Dr Palmer stated it was “nonsense” to focus solely on normal duties police, as a result of cops do rather more than patrol the streets and reply to emergencies.

“And we would like them to do much more as a result of we wished them to analyze gangland crime,” he stated, referring to Victoria’s taskforce into organised crime within the 2000s.

“They have been nonetheless doing issues like arresting folks, following folks, questioning folks, issues police do.”

Dr Palmer stated specialists in household violence, although not normally first on the scene, have been on the entrance line of police companies, typically taking witness statements, compiling proof, making ready for courtroom and coping with intervention orders.

He informed Reality Test that some specialists are even co-located with different neighborhood companies.

That sentiment was echoed by Dr Goldsworthy, who stated:

“They will not be the primary individual there, however they’re the individual really doing investigations by to … trial. To say that they are not frontline I believe is disingenuous.”

He additionally identified the function investigations play in crime prevention by taking repeat offenders out of motion.

Dr Dave McDonald, a criminology lecturer with the College of Melbourne, informed Reality Test fashionable policing required a mixture of normal duties and specialist police.

“The truth now could be that crime is rather more complicated than it was once, and the effectiveness of normal duties police and patrolling the streets … is basically fairly an outdated mannequin,” he stated.

The broader image

Sources apart from the police union inform a distinct story of police resourcing in Victoria.

The Victoria Police spokeswoman informed Reality Test that, utilizing the police definition, the variety of full-time equal workers in frontline roles rose from 9,387 in December 2014 to 10,833 in September 2018, the most recent knowledge obtainable.

That represents a rise of 996 full-time equal officers since Labor took workplace.

In the meantime, the Productiveness Fee makes no reference to frontline police in its 2018 authorities companies report.

It prefers utilizing “operational standing” to estimate the variety of police immediately serving the neighborhood, a measure additionally beneficial by Dr Palmer and Dr Goldsworthy.

The fee defines operational workers as “any member (sworn or unsworn) whose main obligation is the supply of police or police-related companies to an exterior shopper”, with exterior shoppers normally that means members of the general public.

The most recent fee knowledge covers simply two years of the Andrews Authorities, however reveals the variety of operational police (sworn solely) grew by 532 full-time equal workers between June 2015 and June 2017, reaching a complete of 13,589. Together with unsworn workers, the quantity grew by 1,232.

The 2018 report additionally says that “the responsiveness of police to requires help is important to the effectiveness of police companies”, although Victoria informed the fee it was unable to supply knowledge for this.

Neither Victoria Police nor the affiliation embody of their frontline counts armed Protecting Companies Officers (PSOs) patrolling railway stations or Police Custody Officers (PCOs) serving to to handle police station cells. Although not sworn police, their numbers additionally climbed beneath Labor.

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In keeping with annual stories, Victoria Police employed an additional 241 PSOs between June 2015 and June 2018, and an additional 391 PCOs since 2015-16.

Dr Palmer stated that since PSOs have been patrolling practice stations at evening and interacting with the general public, not calling them frontline was “splitting hairs”.

Dr Goldsworthy did not suppose they need to be included as frontline, however stated PSOs would unencumber different police assets and discourage folks from committing crimes.

And the introduction of PCOs, Victoria Police’s 2017-18 annual report stated, had “enabled police at these areas to concentrate on normal policing”.

Who’s making the choices?

In claiming that frontline police had decreased beneath Labor, Mr O’Donohue supported police affiliation criticisms that too many cops are going to taskforces.

However whereas funding choices that decide the variety of police are made by authorities, staffing choices equivalent to who turns into frontline usually are not.

Because the Victorian Ombudsman famous in 2009:

“It’s Victoria Police which allocates the place they [police] go.”

Dr McDonald stated the police govt decides the place workers are deployed, although there are exceptions, equivalent to when the previous Coalition authorities introduced that Protecting Companies Officers would begin patrolling metro and main practice stations.

“The longstanding custom is that these resourcing choices are on the discretion of the Chief Commissioner, however the actuality is that they will also be fairly political choices,” he stated.

Dr Palmer additionally stated it was as much as police administration to determine how police assets have been deployed: “In some states you may really give directives to police, however they’re broad. They don’t seem to be like ‘I need two police in Torquay’.”

However he backed the view that politics nonetheless comes into it, noting that if a authorities promised to open a brand new station or concentrate on explicit crimes, this might kick off funding negotiations for extra workers.

Principal researcher: David Campbell

[email protected]


  • Matthew Man & Edward O’Donohue, Media launch, September 11, 2018
  • Matthew Man & Edward O’Donohue, Media launch, September 12, 2018
  • Edward O’Donohue, Media launch, October 22, 2018
  • Edward O’Donohue, Media launch, October 31, 2018
  • Edward O’Donohue, Tweet, October 9, 2018
  • Lisa Neville, Press launch, October 17, 2018
  • Victorian Price range 2018-19, Overview, Could 2018
  • UK Legal Justice Inspectorates, Inquiry into the entrance line and police visibility, June 2011
  • Productiveness Fee, Report on authorities companies, January 2018
  • ABC Information, ‘Victoria Police wants extra frontline officers, fewer particular taskforces, Police Affiliation says’, September 9, 2018
  • Victoria Police, Annual stories, 2014-15 to 2017-18
  • Victoria Police, Police workers by location (September 2018), October 15, 2018
  • Parliament of Victoria, Analysis paper on 2011 PSOs Invoice, 2011
  • Ombudsman Victoria, Crime statistics and police numbers, March 2009









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