Officers stretched to breaking point

South-East Metropolitan district Acting Superintendent Paul Dallimore, OIC of Response team North Senior Sergeant Peter Woollons. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d423297
South-East Metropolitan district Acting Superintendent Paul Dallimore, OIC of Response team North Senior Sergeant Peter Woollons. Picture: Elle Borgward www.communitypix.com.au d423297

A union survey conducted after a six-month trial of the new model in the South East Metropolitan region was completed by 53 per cent of officers, and found an adverse impact on officers working within response teams.

It also found there was a lack of flexibility in rostering for officers to attend to family commitments and for those that did not work full-time.

WA Police Union president George Tilbury said 56 per cent of those within the response teams answered ‘no’ when asked if rosters were sufficiently flexible to meet work-life demands.

Police officers in the district were split into teams in November, including response teams providing 24/7 coverage and local policing teams based at suburban stations, similar to the model that will be rolled out in the South Metropolitan district in September.

‘We heard a number of anecdotal accounts during the trial from members and this survey confirms our suspicions that not everything is as rosy with the new model,’ Mr Tilbury said.

Mr Tilbury said he feared if overworking continued, they would see an increase in fatigue and stress-related illnesses.

‘These police officers are the first responders and have the most interaction with the community in emergency situations,’ he said. ‘They are overworked and more resources are required to ensure high-level service is provided to the community.

‘The union wants changes to the model to ensure that fatigue issues are kept to a minimum. We believe there needs to be changes to the roster and that Response Teams need to be better resourced.’

The union review said more than 72 per cent of respondents could not take their entitled meal period and more than 85 per cent of respondents were interrupted when taking a meal period.

Public’s needs are top priority

IN response to the WA Police Union survey, the Gazette sat down with South-East Metropolitan district Acting Superintendent Paul Dallimore and OIC of Response team North Senior Sergeant Peter Woollons.

‘Officers meals being disrupted or disturbed or being unable to take them has been a facet of policing for a long time,’ Acting Superintendent Dallimore said.

In response to rostering issues resulting in fatigue and insufficient work/life balance, Snr Sgt Woollons said the model for the response teams was made so they would be able to meet the demand of the public.

‘If you look at when we are required to be on the road, the response teams are rostered to be on the road so we can meet the community’s needs,’ he said.

‘Unfortunately that covers weekend and things like that.

‘Do officers want more weekends off? Yes, but they joined an occupation much like nursing, fire fighting, where we have to meet the demands of the public.’

Acting Superintendent Dallimore said the roster was a fixed six-panel roster and the cycle had been produced to meet operational demand.

‘As part of being a fixed six-panel roster it enables individuals to plan ahead on a six-weekly basis. You know what is happening before, so you can plan ahead,’ he said.

He did say there was scope within the roster industrially to make minor changes, provided they still met demand.