Thursday, August 26, 2010

Drunken cops OK, apparently

A Sunshine Coast officer sacked after being caught almost five times over the limit has got his job back, undermining Queensland police's tough new drink-driving policy and sparking outrage from road trauma victims.

Documents obtained from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal show Joshua Douglas Compton, 30, who was caught driving with a blood-alcohol reading of .235, was the first officer to lose his job after Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson toughened service guidelines last year.

But the tribunal has overturned the decision and ruled the constable, who also lost his driver's licence and was issued a $1400 fine in the Maroochydore Magistrates Court, be re-employed by Queensland Police Service on two years' probation, perform 150 hours of community service and undergo counselling and treatment.

Tribunal documents show Mr Compton argued that at the time of the drink-driving incident, which was in his own car while off-duty on July 19, 2009, his wife had left him taking his son with her, a close friend had died of a drug overdose, his cousin committed suicide and he was told a relative was the victim of systemic sexual abuse by another family member.

His "excellent" police record was also taken into account, although he was reprimanded after punching two other recruits while at the police academy, according to tribunal documents.

In his decision at the tribunal, J.B. Thomas said that a Commissioner's Circular distributed to officers in July last year did not promote a "one strike and you are out" directive but rather demotion. "I do not think that it followed that the appropriate penalty was dismissal," he said. "There is a giant leap from demotion to dismissal. "Demotion does not deprive the offender of his or her livelihood."

Mr Atkinson wouldn't comment yesterday but a spokesman said the police service was considering appealing against the tribunal decision.

Road Trauma Services Queensland spokeswoman Kelly Hornby said the decision condoned bad behaviour. "Police officers know they're there to set the example – it's not: Do as we say, not as we do," she said.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said drink-driving was a "very, very serious thing" but the error of judgment should not result in a sacking.

"It is acknowledged that Mr Compton has made a mistake and he has paid a heavy price in not being able to be promoted for two years and suffering a reduction in salary, as well as having to undertake community service, none of which a member of the public would have to undergo to keep their employment," he said.


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