From the Commissioner: Regional WA

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Commissioner Dawson

Firstly, I thank all police officers who are doing your duty, wherever you are serving. I thank the officers who have fulfilled their obligation to serve Western Australia and I am confident that all 40 vacancies in Regional Western Australia (RWA) will be filled in the coming week as we have received sufficient applications.

We have been doing tremendously well in policing our communities in the midst of a State of Emergency over the past two years. Officers across our State are facing extreme risk from violent offending, rescuing and reviving people in distress or danger, comforting victims and solving all types of crimes while enforcing the law and managing a myriad of emergencies and critical situations. I am very proud of you all.

The WA Police Union (WAPU) issued an open letter to me on Friday, 25 March 2022 regarding a Broadcast and email to 2,099 sworn officers requiring preferences to serve in RWA. I have always supported the need for industrial representation through professional advocacy. Putting aside the personal attack on me by WAPU, I am more concerned about the unprofessional misrepresentation embodied within the WAPU message which now must be addressed.

Am I obligated to serve in any part of Western Australia?

Like all police officers, I swore an oath of engagement under the provisions of the Police Act 1892 and was well aware from my first day of service that:

section 7 (1)
The Commissioner of Police may appoint so many non-commissioned officers and constables of different grades as he shall deem necessary for preservation of peace and order throughout the said State.

section 14 
Officers and constables subject to duty in any part of the State, as if no Police District had been established. Notwithstanding the establishment of any Police District, all officers and constables belonging to the Police Force who may be stationed in any such district shall continue as part of such Force and be subject to the same authority, and be liable, if required, to perform the same duty in any part of the said State or elsewhere.

As can be seen in the law, this is not about an autocracy or lack of care. My responsibility is to ensure that we uphold our values of DUTY, TEAMWORK, INTEGRITY and CARE. This requires that we do our duty, we support our team members and we don’t allow vacancies in any location any longer than is necessary or practicable. Appropriate consideration will be given to individual needs and is being conducted with integrity and care.

The WAPU letter listed a number of matters which I will briefly address.

The WAPU claim that I am Forcing Transfers

Over the past two years from a workforce of over 7,000 officers, only two officers have been issued management initiated transfers. I have no intention of avoiding the duty of deploying police across RWA. The present 40 RWA vacancies will be filled without the need for forced transfers. For the remaining officers who have yet to serve in RWA, there will be plenty of future opportunities to fulfil your duty. Any extenuating circumstances will be taken into account.

The WAPU claim that I am Eroding Entitlements

The WAPU statement on eroding entitlements comes without any explanation or evidence. I am unaware of any erosion of entitlements and provide the following example of the existing RWA entitlements at Ravensthorpe Police Station:

  • Free Rent: $13,312
  • District Allowance: $2,043
  • Locality Allowance: $3,000
  • Attraction Allowance: $14,000
  • Retention Allowance: $1,000
    Total: $33,355

In addition to normal salary, overtime and shift allowances the following information outlines further conditions and incentives:

  • Government Regional Officer Housing (GROH) is supplied at a subsidised rate or no rent is payable.
  • 31% of all GROH residences are supplied at free rent (375 homes), as detailed below:
    • Goldfields: 58
    • Great Southern: 42
    • Kimberley: 58
    • Mid-West Gascoyne: 52
    • Pilbara: 104
    • South West: 18
    • Wheatbelt: 40
  • There are a further 817 GROH residences for which there is subsidised rent.
  • Remote Communities Allowance applies to MFPFs.
  • Remote Community Leave (4 weeks leave per year in addition to normal leave).
  • 44-hour week applies to 36 locations.
  • Air-Conditioning Subsidies.
  • Annual Leave Travel Concessions apply to 47 stations.
  • Additional 40 hours Leave to 21 police stations.
  • Settlement fee or stamp duty return through the Property Allowance if an officer sells or purchases a private dwelling as a consequence of an RWA transfer.

The WAPU claim that I am Rejecting Claims

Once again, without detail provided by WAPU, if this is in reference to non-work-related medical claims, members should be aware that the WA Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC) considered this matter on application by WAPU and recently supported the policy applied by the Commissioner of Police. While some claims have been re-assessed in the WAIRC matter, the following outcomes resulted:

  • Reviewed: 19 
  • Approved: 3
  • Pended: 1 (asked for more information)
  • Declined: 15 (our decision stood)

Since 1 July 2021:

  • Total Claims received: 3,494
  • Total Value of Claims: $2,278,000
  • 94% of claims have been approved
  • 6% of claims declined

The WAPU claim that I am Changing Rosters

I am committed to providing the best possible policing to our community while balancing the members’ interests, stamina and fatigue against the demands. Although not acknowledged, I have championed 10 hour shifts for frontline officers for many years where there is sufficient capacity to do so. The broad diversity and environment we work in has resulted in many different approaches to rostering. I expect that the forthcoming EBA will provide another opportunity to achieve the best outcome we can for all stakeholders.

The WAPU claim that I am Restricting Wages

The State Wages Policy is set by the State Government. As an industrial union, WAPU knows this very well.

I have a responsibility to enter into good faith bargaining in the forthcoming EBA process as Commissioner of Police. I will once again embark on that.

The WAPU claim that I am Mandating Vaccinations

The WAPU knows that the Chief Health Officer has mandated vaccinations. This matter is subject of Supreme Court litigation and I will not make any further comment.

But I will take this opportunity to thank the 99.1% of sworn officers who have received their 1st vaccination, the 99% who have their 2nd vaccination and the 94.9% who have received the booster vaccination.

The vaccinations have proven to be extremely effective in combatting COVID-19 and protecting you and your loved ones.

Closing Remarks

I deeply care for my officers and will not resile from doing as much as I can to improve your conditions and capabilities. I have particularly concentrated on improving officer safety through the provision of the following improvements since being appointed as Commissioner in 2017:

  • Restructuring the metropolitan districts to maximise frontline policing and get rid of experiments and non-tasking inefficiencies.
  • Delivering world class body armour
  • Delivering body worn cameras to all officers
  • Delivering digital OneForce phones and continuing intelligence capability
  • Delivering 950 additional sworn officer program (550 already graduated)
  • Delivering additional sworn officers, chaplains and clinicians into our Health, Welfare and Safety directorate
  • Advocating for the Western Australia Police Force Compensation Scheme

There is no substitute for police officers having back up from your colleagues.

That is why I will continue to push very hard to fill vacancies, despite any opposition.

I listen to feedback and am aware that some officers felt under pressure to respond to the 6-day turnaround to nominate preferences. With no disrespect, the 40 vacancies can never be filled by 2,099 officers.

However, let me reaffirm that you are required and must be prepared to serve the entire State of Western Australia. I strongly advise you continue to have conversations with your families and plan your career. Some of the reasons as to why officers cannot be posted to the regions don’t pass the pub test but once again, I acknowledge that I will take into account genuine and legitimate reasons that at times preclude a transfer.

I will not abrogate my responsibility and duty to support all of my officers across the State. I will not tolerate officers working under pressure because vacancies cannot readily be filled due to personal preference over duty to support your fellow colleagues and the communities we serve.

Thank you for doing your duty.

Chris Dawson
Commissioner of Police

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