Thursday, April 21, 2011

Police officer Martin Baxter fights drink-driving charge

Do we really want this thug on the road?

A POLICE officer accused of aggressive drink-driving while off-duty will not have his breath test admitted to court.

Senior Constable Martin Joseph Baxter, 48, of Kedron, cut off another car, gestured rudely at the driver, followed him home and confronted him while smelling of alcohol, Brisbane Magistrates Court was told yesterday.

Sen-Constable Baxter has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence on Webster Rd at Stafford, on Brisbane's northside, on January 16 this year.

The court yesterday heard evidence from the officer's then-girlfriend, who said he took a six-pack of alcoholic cans from her fridge on the day of the alleged offence, and from a staffer of the Edinburgh Castle Hotel, who said she served him that day.

But under cross-examination by Sen-Constable Baxter's defence lawyer Ruth O'Gorman, the staffer agreed she did not know whether he drove to the hotel.

Motorist Jonathan Faliguerho told the court he had been driving along Webster Rd when Sen-Constable Baxter cut him off and flipped him "the bird".

"I actually had to brake quite severely and the seatbelts locked up," he said. Mr Faliguerho said his girlfriend commented that the vehicle's driver "must be drunk".

The couple then drove back to their home at the Grange and Sen-Constable Baxter followed, the court heard. "He told me he was an off-duty police officer and showed me his hat," Mr Faliguerho said.

He said Sen-Constable Baxter had "glazy" eyes and he could smell alcohol, before he asked the officer whether he had been drinking. "He answered with a smirk and he said 'no'," Mr Faliguerho said.

After Sen-Constable Baxter left, Mr Faliguerho phoned the police with the officer's registration to ask whether he really was a police officer. "I didn't want him on the road if he was drunk," he said.

Police called Mr Faliguerho back after looking up the registration number, confirmed the man was a police officer and said they would find him.

Mr Faliguerho's girlfriend, Claudia Bonny, said she told her partner to keep his distance when they first encountered Sen-Constable Baxter on the road because she thought he might be under the influence.

Later Ms O'Gorman successfully challenged the admitting into evidence of Sen-Constable Baxter's breath test taken at the Stafford police station. She argued police had not provided the proper material to show the officer who administered the test had been properly delegated to do so.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You've got to have "panic or distress" in your voice for police emergency operators to take you seriously???

Amazing behaviour

A TOOWOOMBA man says his wife and son may still be alive if their initial triple-0 call during the flood crisis was handled by a different operator.

John Tyson, whose wife, Donna Rice, and 13-year-old son, Jordan, were swept away in the January 10 flash flood, disputed claims his wife sounded calm during the call.

Mr Tyson and son Blake, 10, sat in the public gallery as the Queensland floods inquiry heard distressing recordings of two triple-0 calls, one from Donna Rice and a later one from Jordan. The police officer who responded to the first triple-0 call repeatedly castigated Ms Rice for driving through a flooded intersection minutes before their deaths. The first, in which Ms Rice phoned to report she was stranded in a car at an intersection, went unanswered for a long time. She then reported that water was up to the door of her car and she was stuck.

"Why did you drive through the flooded water?" the police officer, Senior Constable Jason Wheeler, asked. After taking down her details, Senior Constable Wheeler said emergency services had been receiving a huge number of calls.

Before the call ended, he said: "You shouldn't have driven through it in the first place, OK."

In the second phone call, several minutes later, Jordan Rice spoke to a Queensland Fire and Rescue Service operator. He initially had trouble describing where they were stuck and was asked to calm down: "No, we're scared. "We're nearly drowning, hurry up please."

Before the call cut out, there was a discussion about getting on to the roof of the car.

Senior Constable Wheeler, who took Mrs Rice's call at 1.49pm, said he had no appreciation she was in major danger. "There was no panic or distress in her voice," he said.

He said minor flooding had occurred at the same intersection in the past, and her request to him to call a tow truck did not suggest a sense of urgency.

Senior Constable Wheeler said he had told her to call a tow truck herself because the police service could not be seen to give preferential treatment to a particular towing company.

He reported himself to a welfare officer a day or two after the call, expressing concern he did not keep his frustration in check.

Mr Tyson spoke to the inquiry, saying his wife was "a guardian angel" and saying Jordan loved his family unconditionally.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Qld. Cop stood down over alleged bashing

ANOTHER police officer has been stood down in Queensland for misconduct. The male senior constable is alleged to have assaulted someone during an investigation.

Police are yet to release any further details other than to advise he is in the Far Northern Region police district. The district covers a large area from Cardwell (between Cairns and Townsville) to the Torres Strait.

It is the latest blow to the Queensland Police Service after a furore erupted last month about the light-handed approach it takes to disciplining its own.

An independent panel of experts are currently analysing recommendations to improve the police discipline process. The recommendations sprang from a Crime and Misconduct Commission report late last year that recommended immediate improvements.

The CMC and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh have recently called for a more transparent disciplinary process. Both said public confidence in the police force was at stake.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Corruption claims hit Gold Coast CIB

A FORMER Gold Coast detective claims to have been caught up in "the greatest corruption since the Fitzgerald inquiry" on the Glitter Strip. Ex-Burleigh Heads CIB officer David Whyte made the allegation in Southport Magistrates Court yesterday during a workers compensation hearing.

He is one of three former Burleigh detectives suing the Workers' Compensation Regulatory Authority after being denied compensation for alleged workplace bullying and harassment.

Now a disability pensioner, he was last year acquitted of stalking and assaulting his neighbours in what he claimed were trumped-up charges laid by vengeful colleagues.

Yesterday, the court was told Mr Whyte confronted superiors about a "culture of bullying" in the Burleigh Heads CIB and the use of "dodgy" search warrants.

Mr Whyte said that he finally took his allegations to the Crime and Misconduct Commission because he did not trust the police Ethical Standards Command.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Queensland police banned from free burgers, doughnuts

POLICE will be banned from accepting free or discounted burgers and doughnuts under new anti-corruption reforms threatening to cause divisions within the force.

The Queensland Police Service will activate a revamped gratuities policy on July 1, but the police union is preparing to help officers circumvent it. The Courier-Mail understands the draft policy bans free or discounted fast-food and alcoholic drinks at bars inside an officer's jurisdiction. It also bans "blue-light taxis" where police cars are used to give free lifts to colleagues.

The reforms follow a Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation into allegations Gold Coast police did favours for nightclub staff, who gave them free drinks and entry. Current arrangements allow police to pay half-price at McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Subway, Coffee Club, Gloria Jeans, and many local food shops. Free alcohol is also given to officers at various bars and many independent retailers give away items for free.

The union has vowed to side-step the ban by creating a union shopper-card that gives about 10,000 police the same deals.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers yesterday denied long-standing gratuities from retailers were problematic. "Discounts available for members of organisations, such as the Law Society and the Bar Association, are provided under exactly the same principle as those which we may be able to organise," he said.

The plan to ban all gratuities was applauded by a Griffith University police ethics expert, Professor Tim Prenzler. "Gratuities are about buying the police and that's why they're offered," Dr Prenzler said. "We know this from surveys and interviews." Dr Prenzler called for the union's proposed shopper-cards to only be used when police were off-duty or not in uniform.

The policy is still being finalised by police Ethical Standards Command. "The service is developing policy on gratuities, and will consider any position taken by the union, and respond appropriately in accordance with legislation and policy," a QPS spokeswoman said.

Previous studies have shown the public opposes police accepting gratuities because of real or perceived favouritism. The New York Police Department recently banned all gratuities, because it deemed the arrangements problematic.

Currently, Queensland police must declare any gift they receive worth $20 or more. It is believed that threshold will not be lowered.

The police watchdog, the Crime and Misconduct Commission, uncovered unethical practices by Gold Coast police during Operation Tesco in 2009 and 2010. The investigation cleared the wider police force of corruption but identified "systemic organisational issues".