2020-21 presented a unique challenge to us all, as we confronted the continued COVID-19 pandemic that has affected every aspect of our lives, as police and as South Australians.
This is now the largest and to date most prolonged state-wide emergency response SAPOL has ever undertaken.
As Police Commissioner and as the State Coordinator under the Emergency Services Act 2004, I am very proud of the way everyone in SAPOL has risen to the challenge of new duties and adapted to new ways of doing business in addition to our substantive core functions as defined in the Police Act.
Together, we have all worked extremely hard to ensure the people of our state have been kept safe during the pandemic.
Part of this has been maintaining our accessibility to ensure the community could continue to engage with SAPOL for reliable and timely information through the use of social media, with over 20 million hits on our internet site. In addition SAPOL had 521,688 Facebook, 74,942 Twitter and 160,058 Instagram followers in 2020-21. These numbers demonstrate the community’s reliance on SAPOL as a trusted source of information.
In 2020 SAPOL also released our new guiding documents; Our Strategy 2030: Safer Communities and the Corporate Business Plan 2020-2023: Safer Communities – The Roadmap, looking ahead to the next decade, planning for the challenges and opportunities that will bring.
One of these challenges is counter-terrorist preparedness. We introduced a new counter-terrorism capability, the Security Response Section, with 45 highly trained members providing an extra layer of protection for the community against terrorism and extremist violence. This enhanced specialist capability is necessary to ensure community safety for all South Australians in 2020-21 and beyond. This new functionality has also been of tremendous support to front line policing and greatly appreciated by our patrol teams.
Innovation continued to be a focus for police response throughout 2020-21, with new patrol fleets including hybrids, the introduction of our first electric vehicles, jet skis and an all-terrain vehicle. In this period we also introduced gel blaster reforms, e-ticketing and an automated payment system for expiations. As another enhancement to our response capability we started trialling mental health clinicians in our Communications Centre, and opened an additional Police Operations Centre at Thebarton. In December 2020 Advanced Mobile Location Services began operation in SAPOL, providing the ability to identify the location of members of the public calling for assistance despite possible communication barriers. SAPOL remains the lead agency in South Australia with the use of this new technology.
Policing continues to be a sought after career with many dimensions to offer. Initially SAPOL commenced recruitment of an additional 72 Police Officers, and 54 Protective Security Officers (PSOs). In June 2021, SAPOL also commenced recruiting an additional 114 PSOs to support our COVID-19 response, increasing the overall number of PSOs dedicated to COVID-19 response duties to 168. In October 2020 SAPOL held a special mass graduation ceremony at Adelaide Oval to recognise those graduates with their families who had missed their earlier graduation ceremony due to COVID-19, the first time a graduation ceremony has been conducted outside of the Academy or other police facilities.
SAPOL achieved a significant outcome during the year from the investigation of the death from criminal neglect of Ann-Marie Smith, resulting in the arrest of her carer for manslaughter. In addition, SAPOL`s Operation Leo commenced in December 2020, focussing on the Nomads Outlaw Motor Cycle Gang which has resulted in four arrests, the seizure of commercial quantities of methylamphetamine and heroin, eleven firearms and ammunition, $160,000 cash, along with five motor vehicles, one jet ski and four Harley Davidson motorcycles. Overall, a significant blow to organised crime in this state.
Following on from this SAPOL played a leading role in the highly successful national and international Operation Ironside, working with the FBI and the AFP. Ironside is the largest operation run by SAPOL deploying over 460 police searching more than 80 premises on 7 June 2021. More information will be reported in the next financial year.
My ongoing personal commitment to ensuring a healthy and diverse workforce resulted in the continuation of SAPOL`s Reconditioning Program, where staff are linked to appropriate allied health service providers and out-of-pocket costs are covered. In addition, the Be Well Tracker, Operation Nutrition Support and the Body Scan Program were all launched in 2020-21. SAPOL also launched its new Disability Access and Inclusion Plan 2020-2024 in October 2020, setting a clear direction on how police can support people with disability over the next four years.
Road safety for all South Australians continued to be a major issue of concern for police and government, notwithstanding the impact of COVID-19 on the community. SAPOL ran twelve road safety marketing campaigns throughout the year, targeting Drug Driving, Distraction, Seatbelts, Regional Driving, Motorcycles, Fatigue and Speed. Some campaigns targeting selfish road behaviour with the potential to harm innocent road users, were deliberately provocative to bolster community awareness of the consequences of dangerous road users.
In last year’s annual report, I reflected on how tough it had been and how proud I was of SAPOL. The challenges of 2020-21 have been no less significant or difficult than last year and I am again personally grateful for the commitment, professionalism, sacrifice and empathy shown the community of South Australia.
Grant Stevens APM LEM
Commissioner of Police
South Australia Police