7 Dec 2023

Police minister sets expectations for commissioner around law & order

From Checkpoint, 5:26 pm on 7 December 2023

The Police Commissioner says he is committed to meeting the new government's expectations for a crackdown on gangs.

In a letter to Andrew Coster, the new Police Minister Mark Mitchell said the force needed to use its full legal powers to stop gangs from taking over public roads, towns and spaces, and to significantly disrupt gang and organised crime in the community.

The minister also expected a back-to-basics approach with a highly visible presence in the community and a continued strong focus on youth crime.

Mitchell signed off his letter of expectation by saying meeting these expectations would require strong and decisive leadership.

Coster told Checkpoint frontline staff needed to be freed up "to focus on the things that only police can do", and he was looking for the minister's support in achieving that.

As for gangs gathering in public spaces, he said legislative changes would be key levers.

"At the moment, there's no offence associated with gang members gathering and so the patch ban would potentially help us in that regard."

Coster said he was providing advice to the minister on how police would enforce a ban on gang patches.

He could not say how effective the ban would be.

As for large gang gatherings moving forward, he said: "We will need to deploy very carefully to those events to achieve that outcome".

There were several ways officers could enforce a ban on gang members gathering in public, including waiting until later to arrest people, he said.

"There are lots of ways for us to approach this ... the tactics will depend on the situation, we need to make sure our people are well prepared and that our training is good. But in the end, those legislative levers are important for us."

He said Police were prioritising more frontline officers and a stronger visibility in communities.

"The government investment and 500 new police officers will be a key part of that in terms of creating the peak presence that we will need around our town centres.

"We're also considering how we're organised in relation to gangs particularly, and making sure that we've got the necessary coordination that will be required to police these events and in a coordinated way."

Coster said an increased effort was needed to recruit new officers.