- Police forces around Australia are struggling to cope with dwindling numbers
- 17-year-old Queenslanders can now begin their police applications process
- The new age limit has been slammed amid claims police mishandle DV cases
- NSW police recruit numbers are dwindling likely due to the $17,000 training fee
- WA former officers said they were treated ‘worse than suspects’ amid ‘exodus’
- SA crime rate above average but police ‘can’t find 90 people’ to fill critical roles
A law enforcement crisis is unfolding in Australia with police forces struggling to find new recruits amid claims that officers are being treated ‘worse than suspects’.
New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia police unions and officials have complained about mistreatment, staff shortages and excessive work expenses as an ‘exodus’ of officers walk out on the job.
The problem is so serious that Queensland Police announced last week it will drop the minimum age of applications to just 17 as the state embarks its largest ever recruitment campaign to stem the spiralling crime rate.
A recent spike in theft and violent crime has stretched the Sunshine State’s law enforcement resources to the brink.
The overall crime rate in Queensland has shot up five per cent in the past year with robberies up 33 per cent, assaults jumping 69 per cent, sexual crime increasing 14 per cent and break-ins surging 23 per cent.
Queensland also accounts for one quarter of all grand theft auto cases, making it the car theft capital of Australia.
To tackle the surging crime rate a massive recruitment drive is underway with the Queensland Police force inducting it’s largest-ever number of rookies in a single swearing-in ceremony in more than a decade.
The Queensland Police Service have denied the drop in age is related to the state’s recent crime wave telling Daily Mail Australia the change will ‘enable more young Queenslanders to kick-start an exciting career in policing’.
Not old enough to vote or buy a beer but okay to be a cop…’ – an online commenter said.
But the decision caused a major backlash with many community members calling for officers with more life experience to be hired following accusations of police are mishandling domestic violence situations.
‘Only thing I can imagine that’s more terrifying than a Queensland cop is a 17-year-old Queensland cop,’ one person wrote on Twitter.
‘Not old enough to vote or buy a beer but okay to be a cop…’ another said.
‘Policing is a job for sensible, mature people. Not someone whose brain hasn’t finished growing,’ another wrote.
Applicants will still be required to pass required cognitive, physical and psychological tests, meet the security, integrity, medical and interview selection standards, and have successfully completed Year 12 certificate (or equivalent).
The state’s new recruitment drive is hoping to drum up 1,450 new officers and 575 staff members by 2025.
Earlier this year, a submission for a state inquiry into Queensland Police culture accused male officers of widespread misogynistic behaviour, sexist comments and sexual harassment.
‘We’re missing out on quality potential police officers in this state because people simply can’t afford the application process’ – NSW Police Association of NSW President Kevin Morton
The Guardian detailed some of the allegations including male officers calling the area where female detectives sat as ‘c*** corner’, a male officer saying a female investigator was ‘a good operator until her arse got fat’ and another officer asking if ‘this a real rape or is she looking for a free pap smear?’.
Meanwhile, Police Association of NSW President Kevin Morton slammed the state’s recruitment system for charging potential officers about $17,000 for its training program – a major barrier driving potential recruits away.
‘We’re missing out on quality potential police officers in this state because people simply can’t afford the application process,’ Mr Morton said at a press conference in May.
NSW is the only state where aspiring cops have to spend thousands of dollars and months of their lives to join the force.
Candidates first have to complete a university certificate course in workforce essentials before they can apply to join the force.
Successful applicants then have to pay for an almost nine-month training course at Goulburn Police Academy where they are restricted to the facility and separated from their families.
‘They’re not even getting paid for it – in fact, they’re paying out of their life savings to do it,’ Mr Morton said.
NSW Police was forced to postpone its June training course due to a lack of applicants and schedule conflicts.
On the other side of the country, more than 300 officers walked out on the WA Police force in the last financial year – with 60 in June alone.
The WA Police Union said claims by the force and Premier Mark McGowan that officers are being ‘lured’ away by high-paying mining jobs is untrue.
‘More than three-quarters of survey respondents, 77.4 per cent, said dissatisfaction with WA Police Force management and culture was a reason they resigned,’ WA Police Union President Mick Kelly said last Friday.
‘Only one of them has referenced swapping a police station for a FIFO gig on a mine site, whereas dozens have explained how working for the agency decayed their mental health, demolished their personal relationships and destroyed their work-life balance.
‘The WA Police Force’s poor human resources practices are what’s powering the accelerating exodus of officers from the agency, not rich resources sector jobs.’
‘I participated in an internal interview in which I was treated worse than how we’re expected to treat suspects. The whole system is broken’ – one anonymous WA officer said.
Aside from new job offers, a survey by the union found the top five reasons officers left the force were dissatisfaction with management and culture, long working hours and/or high workload, lack of career development or promotion opportunities, family circumstances and poor pay and conditions.
Five devastated former officers described working with ‘a lack of support’.
‘The WA Police Force management doesn’t care about its people. The value placed on experience, particularly frontline, is non-existent,’ one former officer said.
‘The minister’s comments about the culture problem show how out of touch the hierarchy are. It saddens me to know how many experienced officers are leaving because they are so fed up with sub-par treatment.
‘I participated in an internal interview in which I was treated worse than how we’re expected to treat suspects. The whole system is broken.’
Another ex-officer said after five years working ‘critically understaffed’ regional WA, the situation had become ‘dangerous’.
‘The workload was extremely excessive, expecting us to do more with less and sending us probationers to make up numbers. It was very dangerous at times,’ the officer said.
‘For me, the benefits weren’t enough to continue to put my own safety at risk. The culture wasn’t positive and the last few years I dreaded going to work.’
A third said: ‘The job itself is hard work. Throw in the office politics and it’s a lose-lose. Fighting with the people on the street then coming back in and fighting with the office politics.’
Mr Kelly addressed the survey findings during a press conference on Friday.
‘Our people have said enough is enough, my mental health and family relationships are breaking down,’ he said.
‘They’re going to situations, crime scenes, which are extraordinarily confronting. They need some support.
‘Can I suggest to the premier he comes back from his jaunt overseas and talks to police at the coalface?’
WA Police told Daily Mail Australia it is now considering hiring police officers from overseas to help manage staff shortages.
‘Given the current circumstances, WA Police is canvassing a range of options to attract future recruits,’ a spokesperson said.
‘This includes possible interstate and overseas recruitment campaigns, however decisions are yet to be made in relation to any proposed extension of the current recruitment campaign.’
Two weeks ago South Australia’s police union called for the state’s police and recruitment systems to be reviewed as officers struggle to cope with dwindling force numbers.
‘For more than 12 months now we have been telling commissioner Grant Stevens that his district policing model is failing,’ Police Association of South Australia president Mark Carroll told ABC.
‘It’s failing front line officers and investigators and it’s failing the community of South Australia.’
Mr Carroll said SA Police are ‘struggling to maintain numbers’.
‘We find it a staggering indictment on SAPOL’s recruiting systems that in a state of a million and a half people, we can’t get 90 people to fill the recruit courses,’ he said.
Delegates from the union planned to meet on Wednesday to further discuss the problems facing SA Police.
The shortage coincides with an ‘enormous jump’ in SA crime rates with 5,100 more crimes than average committed in April alone, leading to fears there soon won’t be enough officers to respond to crimes.