2021-22 began as another challenging year for police and our South Australian community as we continued to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Major Emergency Declaration continued into 2021-22 and has enabled us to effectively manage and support our community to reduce the spread and impact of COVID-19 in South Australia.
The 24th of May 2022 was a significant milestone as the date I revoked the COVID-19 Major Emergency Declaration. This was possible after 793 days as a result of the reduced threat to the community and new legislation that transitioned the remaining Directions to the South Australian Public Health Act, 2011.
During 2022 we have been able to stand down our border operations, including our presence at the Adelaide Airport, as well as concluding our involvement in the medi-hotel program. We were able to redeploy Protective Security Officers to other duties to support front line policing, including assisting Major Crime Detectives in the Bol murder investigation.
COVID has been a unique challenge for all of us, and this was recognised with SAPOL’s COVID-19 Border Operations program being presented the Premier’s Excellence Award. This award recognised the diligence, dedication and agility of SA Police and our partners in protecting the community. As a wider recognition of the contribution of all SAPOL employees throughout COVID, I have instigated the Emergency Response Active Service (ERAS) Medal. The first of these medals have been presented to all SAPOL employees who served more than 180 days during the COVID major emergency declaration. The awarding of this medal recognises their commitment, professionalism and sacrifice in a time of significant adversity.
During 2021-22, SAPOL continued to work towards our core function of reducing and preventing crime, as well as achieving significant investigative outcomes for several high-profile criminal cases. These included the convictions for the death of Ann-Marie Smith and the charging of two others for criminal neglect as well as securing a conviction for the 1993 murder of Suzanne Poll.
Last year I reflected on SAPOL’s leading role in fighting organised crime as a part of the national and international Operation Ironside, working with the AFP and the FBI. In this reporting period, around 500 SAPOL staff were involved in the Operation, with 118 alleged offenders arrested, and 3 clandestine laboratories dismantled. Seizures included 49 firearms; 69 kg methamphetamine; 354 kg cannabis; 45 litres fantasy and over 10 000 ecstasy tablets. Over $37 million assets were also confiscated.
SAPOL has a proud history of serving the South Australian community, and in 2021-22 we celebrated the 70th birthday of Mounted Operations Unit, a State icon, as well as the 20th anniversary of the SAPOL Call Centre.
Road safety continued to be a major focus for SAPOL, with a hard-hitting regional road safety campaign, featuring emotionally charged TV commercials portraying the horrors associated with the ‘fatal five’. Drink drivers were also targeted, with the attention-grabbing ‘Selfish pricks’ advertising campaign.
SAPOL was also at the forefront of new legislation punishing those caught drug driving with a three-month instant loss of licence, the first jurisdiction in Australia to take this step. SAPOL also advocated for new laws introduced to combat hoon driving, forcing reckless road users to pay impounding fees to release their car or risk having it destroyed. Importantly, SAPOL successfully led proposed tough new laws to target extreme speeders to deal with the unacceptable dangers posed to other road users. I have publicly condemned this kind of reckless driving behaviour and since extreme speed legislation came into place in December 2021, over 80 road users were charged with this now indictable offence during the 2021-22 financial year. These idiots are now treated like the criminals they are.
In 2021-22 SAPOL launched several significant corporate strategies, including the SAPOL Digital Strategy 2022-24 delivering our commitment to technology enabled policing and the SAPOL People Strategy 2021-2025 setting out the direction and plan for continuing to build a resilient, successful, safe and vibrant police service. We also released the SAPOL Alcohol Management Strategy 2022-2025 and the SAPOL Illicit Drug Harm Minimisation Strategy 2022-2025. These both serve to support SAPOL staff in collaborating and engaging with community, academia, as well as government and non-government stakeholders, to minimise the adverse impact of alcohol and illicit drugs.
Our policing presence on South Australian waters was bolstered by the arrival of the locally built, state-of-the-art Police Launch 2 (PL2). PL2 will enhance our search and rescue capability, marine compliance, general patrols and dive operations. Our new helicopter ‘Polair 51’ joined SAPOL this year, featuring the latest technology and proudly displaying the SAPOL ‘Safer Communities’ markings, to distinguish it from the rest of the rescue helicopter fleet and for a visible and responsive police presence.
After some delays as a result of COVID, the new Hindley Street Police Station opened on 27 May 2022, a vast improvement on the old station. Located on the corner of Leigh Street, the new station maintains our 24/7 police presence and importantly, provides a modern, contemporary and accessible space that will serve Adelaide for years to come.
In June 2022 we also launched the SAPOL TikTok account with currently around 12 000 followers. SAPOL continued to provide reliable and timely information throughout 2021-22 on other social media platforms, with over 26 million hits on our internet site; 537 026 Facebook followers; 169 222 Twitter; 78 715 Instagram followers; and 14 655 YouTube followers.
Like all other police jurisdictions around Australia, SAPOL has faced challenges in recruiting. This saw an intensive review and redesign of our marketing and recruiting program, which resulted in a positive response from potential recruits. This will be an ongoing focus into 2022-23.
2022-23 will see an ongoing commitment to providing an outstanding policing service including our commitment to several transformational reform projects. This includes our commitment to the Premier’s Taskforce on the future needs of policing resources.
Once again I would like to express my personal appreciation to all of our employees who have continued to work tirelessly keeping our community safe throughout this unique and extended pandemic period. Regardless of your role in SAPOL, your professionalism, dedication and commitment is the reason SAPOL is held in such high regard by the community of South Australia.