The below is an opinion piece by WAPU Acting President Paul Gale - featured in the West Austrlian.
Date: 2 March 2023
The best way for me to describe WA Police is a “patchwork police force”.
There are so many parts to the agency that are just plain outdated and not fit-for-purpose.
Our missed meal allowance hasn’t been updated since 2010 and currently sits at $6.35. Good luck finding a kebab at that price today.
 Given staffing shortages, we must be on the road until the “death knock”, so we often stay back and complete paperwork well into our personal time. I suspect that this type of pressure is one reason why so many police officers are today leaving the agency.
Last week, we saw yet another example of where the agency falls short. A red Range Rover took officers on a three-hour chase across practically half of Perth.
The vehicle ducked and dived out of traffic; drove on the wrong side of the road; and, sped at close to double the limit during pickup hours at school zones.
It’s a miracle that no one was hurt.
The pursuit ended in the CBD when officers carried out a “boxing-in” tactic. This is when police cars surround an evading vehicle and reduce their speed to bring it to a halt.
While the police officers did a great job, the agency let down both them and the community.
For starters, if that pursuit took place in London or Los Angeles, it would have ended in minutes, not hours.
That’s because in both of those places, police officers receive training and appropriate vehicles to carry out a boxing-in.
Most journalists don’t believe me when I say that we carry out this tactic based solely on what we’ve seen on Netflix, but it’s true.
A standard rule of thumb among both UK and US police is that, when boxing-in, your vehicle must be of equal or greater weight than the offending vehicle.
Not to besmirch much-loved vehicles among Australians, but it was a humble Tiguan and a couple of Camrys that boxed in that hulking Range Rover.
These types of general-duty vehicles lack nudge bars which absorb shock, and don’t allow us to disable our airbags before contacting the offending vehicle.
Counterintuitively, the latter is important because the last thing you want is an airbag inhibiting your ability to quickly exit your vehicle and make an arrest.
We shouldn’t have to wait for a fatality among police officers or the community for the agency to do what other countries have been doing for decades.
Given that we only have body worn cameras and not dash cams (apparently, they’re too expensive), when our airbags activate, they actually block our video feed.
This is yet another example of WA Police being a “patchwork police force”.
Boxing-in has recently been described as simply an “apprehension” and it has been said that officers do it all the time.
That’s simply not true.
I’ve been a police officer for 35 years, and I’ve been taught all the apprehension techniques. Boxing-in is not one of them.
During the 2017 Bourke Street inquest, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Michael Grainger said “blocking a vehicle in (boxing-in) is incredibly difficult and incredibly dangerous and it does require specific training, specific vehicles …”
This isn’t the first boxing-in that we’ve had in Perth.
“Box, box, box.”
“Go, go, go.”
Those words were exchanged between police airwing and three police cars on the Kwinana Freeway on December 10, 2022.
A few seconds later, cars driven at high speed by detectives moved into place and boxed in the car of a tomahawk-wielding 28-year-old man.
Twenty-six police officers are now under investigation over an alleged 88 policy breaches, and one criminal offence of reckless driving.
At the time, I expressed the same concerns as today, and the agency responded with only a vague and carbon copy statement.
“Our current urgent duty driving policies and practices are premised on officer and public safety at all times,” said a spokesperson.
Apart from using a decade-old name for the policy (it’s now called “emergency driving”), the agency’s sincerity just doesn’t stack up with reality.
Describing boxing-in during the Bourke Street inquest, Sen. Sgt David Newman said, “They’re dangerous to the community, they’re dangerous for Victoria Police and, at times, they’re dangerous for the offenders”.
And you wonder why I took the extraordinary step to caution police officers against driving under this policy until the agency fixes it?
This is why.
Let me be clear. The WA Police Union does not oppose boxing in. We support it.
But we want the agency to provide us training and appropriate vehicles so that we can carry out this tactic as safely and effectively as possible.
We got Stinger tyre deflation devices in the early 2000s.
But we weren’t taught to seek hard cover when deploying them until 2019 after one of our own and Dockers AFLW player Ann McMahon was hit and seriously injured by the driver of a stolen vehicle.
Once again, “patchwork police force”.
We shouldn’t have to wait for a fatality among police officers or the community for the agency to do what other countries have been doing for decades.
A few of my colleagues have suggested that the agency doesn’t want to fix our pursuit policy because the union has been banging on about it.
I sincerely hope that’s not the case, and I challenge the agency to demonstrate their maturity and prove otherwise.
Paul Gale is the Acting President of the WA Police Union