Cops raise concerns over new DV rule
A new rule for police to prioritise all domestic violence calls has been met with resistance from officers on the ground, who say they are attending some "jobs that do not require a police response whatsoever".
Queensland Police Service (QPS) Commissioner Katarina Carroll made the call to prioritise domestic violence (DV) call-outs following the February 22 death of Browns Plains woman Doreen Langham, who had phoned Triple-0 in the hours before she was killed at the hands of her ex-partner Gary Hely.
In a March 12 letter penned by Queensland Police Union of Employees (QPUE) General Secretary Mick Barnes and addressed to Assistant Commissioner of Police, Cameron Harsley, concerns are raised the blanket rule means calls officers believe as being more serious were getting pushed back.
"The membership has been very positive about the reduction of Calls for Service because of the introduction of SOLVE … being the new assessment tool for calls for the police service to determine what jobs police are to attend and in what priority," Mr Barnes wrote.
"However, the recent decision to now upgrade the code on all DV matters has completely undermined the efficient operation of the SOLVE strategy.
"Members have raised concerns that they are now attending allegedly DV jobs that do not require a police response whatsoever, whilst much more serious matters are not being attended promptly."
But QPS Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski, 61, denies this to be the case, saying Triple-0 calls are still assigned in order of priority on a grading scale from one to five, with a 'code one' being the most urgent.
The SOLVE strategy - or Severity, Opportunity, Likelihood, Vulnerability and Expectation - is a new guideline designed to assist police better prioritise calls for help based on the details provided during each call.
It is one component of the QPS Service Delivery Redesign Project (SDRP), designed to create more efficient and effective policing methods, implemented on February 8.
One part of the change has included the introduction of updated response codes, used by staff in police communication centres, to help triage calls so jobs can then be assigned to officers in order of priority.
An urgent job will be assigned as 'code one' while the least non-urgent job is assigned as a code five on the grading scale.
Commissioner Carroll instated the rule that every single domestic violence-related call would now be prioritised as at least a 'code three' just days after Ms Langham's death in a fire police suspect was lit by Hely, her ex-partner.
Ms Langham, 49, who had been granted a temporary protection order against Hely in court on February 9, had called Triple-0 about 9.30pm February 21 stating he was outside her home.
The officers did not arrive until after midnight and allegedly left when they could not find Ms Langham.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS SERVICES
Police said 49-year-old Hely - who was already wanted on a breach of domestic violence order offence - set fire to Ms Langham's Myola Street townhouse just before 4am.
Her death is being treated as a murder-suicide, with the body of a man, believed to be Hely, also found in the fire debris.
Mr Gollschewski said while the Triple-0 call made by Ms Langham to police hours before she was killed was determined to be a "code three" - meaning a police presence was necessary - not all domestic-violence calls were previously assigned such a high priority, depending on the information provided during the call.
The deputy commissioner said, despite the concerns raised in the QPUE's letter, management had not yet seen any evidence the new rule had taken away from other urgent calls in the first few weeks of it being rolled out.
"We're not seeing any evidence its impacting on other jobs," he said.
"If something is coded three and we have a code one or two happening at the same time, then those jobs are going to still get priority.
"Code three means we need to get there but if it's the next job and a code two or one come through, then it will still get bumped."
The complaint about police now having to respond in person to every single domestic-violence related call was one of several concerns outlined in the police union's letter, following a number of internal changes being introduced under the SDRP.
Mr Gollschewski said the issue would continue to be monitored, alongside other new changes being introduced under the redesign plan.
Ms Langham's death is also now under investigation by the Queensland coroner as a "death in police operation," meaning her death occurred during an active report to police.
Originally published as Cops raise concerns over new DV rule