The financial year 2018-19 was a busy year for police, with unprecedented increases in demand for our services, and managing major reforms aimed at enhancing our service delivery and the way we look after our people.
In many ways, the year was defined by the implementation of our District Policing Model Stage 1, arguably the biggest structural change in SAPOL’s history; introducing a range of new and enhanced capabilities across SAPOL and transitioning six metropolitan Local Service Areas to four interoperable Districts.
Also significant was the implementation of the most extensive release of SAPOL’s SHIELD data management system, a major upgrade to electronic processes for crime reporting. This contemporary platform will create flexibility for new technologies, data analytics and biometric technology.
As part of my personal commitment to drive positive cultural change in SAPOL, flexible work arrangements were augmented under a new policy and a new Diversity and Inclusion Branch established. Both substantial outcomes from the ongoing work to address the recommendations of the 2016 Equal Opportunity Commission Review. These initiatives along with many others are making SAPOL a more respectful and inclusive workplace where all employees are valued and respected.
I am also pleased to report of the 187 recruits that graduated in this period, there were 93 females and 94 males, a demonstration of our focus on improving gender balance since 2015. SAPOL’s recruiting process now contributes to a sworn workforce that better reflects the wider South Australian community we serve.
Also reflecting my determination to acknowledge the challenges of the uniqueness and complexity of our operational policing environment, SAPOL’s inaugural Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2018-2020 was released in October 2018. Mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to our ability to interact positively with others and work productively. Whilst I am pleased with the work we are doing to better protect our people, there is more to do and wellbeing will continue to be a priority for us.
Despite our commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our staff, it is a reality that some do get hurt at work. Our aim is to assist those people to recover from their injuries and return as quickly as possible to meaningful employment.
Sadly, some lose their lives at work and in this financial year SAPOL pleaded guilty in the South Australian Employment Tribunal in relation to the tragic, untimely death of Debra Summers at Echunga Police Reserve in 2016. This was an unnecessary loss of life and I deeply regret the pain caused to Debra’s family and acknowledge their loss. SAPOL has instigated significant reform around facilities management to prevent such unacceptable events like this.
Specific details on crime and road safety results are contained in this document, but I make particular mention of the following highlights.
As a result of the hard work and dedication of police, in 2018-19 SAPOL achieved three arrests for historical unsolved homicides covering the period from 1973 to 2010. Just as families and friends of homicide victims never forget, neither do police, providing comfort and reassurance by identifying and charging offenders regardless of the years that have passed. Achievements like this send a strong message to the community about our professionalism and response to investigate crime and bring offenders to justice.
In October 2018, SAPOL released the Cybercrime Strategy 2018-2020, to underpin our coordinated efforts in the detection and disruption of cybercrime. Law enforcement agencies now need the capability to patrol, investigate and disrupt crime not just in the physical world, but also in the cyber environment.
For example, the emerging issue of victimisation from online based scams involving South Australians has resulted in more than $12 million lost by South Australians since 2013-14. In 2018-19 alone the figure was in excess of a million dollars.
SAPOL’s Operation Disrepair has had great success in reducing the number of repeat victims, working with other law enforcement agencies and directly with the community, personally contacting people lured by scammers to educate them on the dangers of these crimes and helpful crime prevention techniques.
As the State Coordinator under the Emergency Management Arrangements for South Australia, I am exceptionally proud of the role SAPOL plays in ensuring the safety of the community, working with other stakeholders responding to emergencies such as earthquakes, bushfires or floods. We can be thankful that we were not challenged by any significant natural emergencies or terrorism related events during the financial year, but the efforts in preparation, exercising and planning, ensured we were ready to respond.
Also aimed at enhancing community safety, is new the SAPOL Security Response Section (SRS). During this period SAPOL developed the SRS model which was then approved and funded by government. The SRS will provide SAPOL with enhanced rapid response capability by pre-deploying specially trained officers equipped with additional tactical options to areas of higher risk, such as major events and crowded places.
Road safety continues to be a major focus for police. During the 2018-19 financial year 103 people lost their lives on South Australian roads. This is personally disappointing and troubling to all police officers involved in our core function of regulating road use and preventing collisions. The effort of police to change driver behaviour around the ‘Fatal Five’ is evidenced by our ongoing enforcement activity around the state.
We must not stop focusing our collective efforts on improving the behaviour of all our road users to enhance the safety of every South Australian using our roads.
SAPOL launched the new Road Safety Strategy 2019-2020 in April 2019, and as we move into the 2019-20 year, SAPOL will strengthen this community message on road safety working with key stakeholders. With our additional responsibility for effective, hard hitting road safety communications allied to our experienced education and enforcement activities, we will continue to target complacency, and poor decisions on our roads.
The way we manage our road safety obligations echoes our community focused crime prevention approach, partnering with the public to share information and to educate. In 2018-19 SAPOL reached more than 250 000 South Australians through targeted Police and Community (PACE) forums, and SAPOL social media had 8.4 million hits on our Internet site and 637 000 combined Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers.
I have highlighted the work of police involved in high profile investigations or intensive campaigns throughout the year, but I would also like to particularly acknowledge the tireless work of those general duties officers who are the first to respond and deal with most of the calls for assistance from the public in the first instance. It is general duties officers who preserve the scene so specialists can do their jobs, and who step up to attend major events and emergency incidents when they arise.
Together we all play our part in ensuring SAPOL meets the needs and expectations of the community and this includes our unsworn staff providing direct support to the front line and those who provide the framework that enables SAPOL to operate efficiently. The role played by Protective Security Officers is particularly critical to infrastructure, protected places and schools, and is also an important contribution to keeping South Australia safe.
In closing, I personally thank all SAPOL’s hardworking dedicated staff for their professionalism and commitment throughout the year.
Commissioner of Police
South Australia Police