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Wednesday 15 February 2023
Dear Acting Commissioner,
I understand that:
1. The Professional Standards Portfolio of WA Police has placed under investigation 26 police officers over an alleged 92 breaches of policy, and 1 offence of reckless driving under the Road Traffic Act 1974;
2. That investigation relates to an incident of Evade-Police Intercept Driving (commonly known as a ‘police pursuit’) that occurred between 9 – 10 Dec 2022 and which ended on the Kwinana Fwy in Hammond Park; and
3. That incident involved an alleged 14-hour crime spree by a 28-year-old man, who threatened some of his victims with a tomahawk, and whose car was only brought to a halt using the tactic of ‘boxing-in’, the use of which was authorised by the Police Operations Centre.
As you would be aware, Section 61A(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Act 1974 provides us with a defence against reckless driving providing that that driving “was substantially in accordance with the Commissioner’s [your] policies”.
Given that boxing-in is not one of your policies, when we carry it out, we contribute to the quantum of actions outside of them, thus increasing our likelihood of being subjected to criminal action and loss of employment.
Most Western Australians would be shocked to learn that we carry out this US-style police tactic based on little more than what we’ve seen on Netflix.
Coupled with the many rules that we must follow (such as constantly providing situational reports in lieu of having dash cams), it is very easy to trip up while doing what’s required to protect the community.
On that basis, I request that you undertake a review of your policies on Intercept Driving, and that as part of that review, you consider:
1. Providing police officers with greater flexibility during highly dynamic incidents of Evade-Police Intercept Driving, particularly those involving Aggravated Vehicle Aggression;
2. Outfitting our vehicles with dash cams with a live and continuous feed to the Police Operations Centre, like the UK and other states in Australia; and
3. Providing us with training and legal protection for boxing-in and the PIT Manoeuvre, as well as appropriate vehicles such as the 300 series Land Cruiser (the US equivalent of which is used for such tactics over there).
Earlier today, I wrote to police officers and asked that – until such time that you commit to this review – they do not engage in Evade-Police Intercept Driving.
I recognise that this is a significant step, but I cannot in good conscience endorse the use of actions under a policy if our members are being subjected to possible criminal action and loss of employment under that policy.
The ‘Kwinana 26’ are nothing short of heroes. They carried out a tremendous job in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. All the while, avoiding harm to the community.
Yours sincerely,
Paul Gale
Acting President
WA Police Union