Hedland locals assured of safety during union campaign

Grant Taylor and Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
WA Police Officers undergo Tactical Arrest Options Training in Albany: The rear door of a house is breached. Pic: Michael Wilson The West Australian
Camera IconWA Police Officers undergo Tactical Arrest Options Training in Albany: The rear door of a house is breached. Pic: Michael Wilson The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

Hedland police have reassured locals that the safety of residents will not be put at risk as officers across WA began a work-to-rule campaign.

The public were being warned to expect delays in police response times as officers began the campaign that includes restrictions on attending dangerous jobs if they are not carrying a stab-proof vest.

The industrial action, which started at 7am today, came after Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan officially rejected a push for all frontline officers to be issued with stab vests — a move that would cost an estimated $10million.

Senior Sergeant Dean Snashall said South Hedland and Port Hedland police were “aware of the Police Union’s work-to-rule campaign and could assure the community that the safety of people in this town would not be put at risk”.

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“There will be no change to police responses to urgent calls for assistance and any delays in service delivery will be minimal and hardly noticed by most people,” he said.

WA Police Union president George Tilbury said the rejection from the Commissioner was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” for his members who were also angry that an offer of a 1.5 per cent pay rise has been withdrawn by the State Government.

“First they refused our request for additional police officers,” he said.

VideoWe need them to protect us in the fight against terrorism, says union.

“Next, they are happy for our members to attend violent incidents involving weapons without personal-issue stab-proof ballistic vests. And now they want to offer our hard-working police officers an insulting wage increase. This is deplorable and defies belief in the current climate.”

The action means only specialist police units who carry vests, such as the tactical response group and riot squad, will be expected to attend call-outs involving weapons such as knives, bottles or syringes.

Officers without vests would respond only if the specialist units were busy but only if a second vehicle was available to attend with them.

The union’s campaign also includes a range of other “go-slow” measures Mr Tilbury admitted would affect response times.

The measures include a ban on working overtime, as well as requirements that officers conduct detailed vehicle safety inspections before they head out patrols and for them to return to their station to complete paperwork after every job is completed.

The union said it did not believe the action would affect public safety but warned it would continue until its demands were met.

“The commissioner needs to show some leadership and fight for his officers,” Mr Tilbury said. “Although he is leaving in August, the commissioner still has a responsibility to advocate for officers.

“It appears the commissioner has no idea what police want and seems to have already left the building.”

A spokeswoman for Mr O’Callaghan said the police senior executive had absolute confidence that officers would not place the safety of the community at risk.

“The impacts of the union’s work-to-rule direction will be closely monitored to ensure the police response to urgent calls for assistance is not compromised,” she said.

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