Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Officer-in-charge at Surfers Paradise supports culture of freebies

SURFERS Paradise's top cop saw nothing wrong with his officers receiving free drinks at nightclubs and half-price McDonald's meals. But he also called for police to be rotated through Surfers in six-month stints, Kings Cross-style, to reduce the chances of them falling victim to the party precinct's temptations.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has raised serious conflict-of-interest concerns about police who provided "preferential treatment" to nightclubs in return for free hospitality. But the officer-in-charge of the Surfers Paradise station, Senior-Sergeant Martin Dimond, said freebies were acceptable providing police were not being compromised.

The first witness to give evidence at the CMC's Operation Tesco public hearings, Sen-Sgt Dimond was quizzed about public perceptions towards police receiving gifts and benefits. He said police had long received half-price McDonald's and other discounted meals and "the community are not concerned about it".

Sen-Sgt Dimond said he believed it was acceptable for police to receive free drinks at nightclubs as long as they were not providing favours, or getting greater benefits than the general public. He said some clubs liked to have off-duty police in their establishments to deter bikies. "I'm not aware of any public concern about that (off-duty officers receiving drinks)," Sen-Sgt Dimond told the inquiry.

However, he said senior police had ordered a ban on officers receiving nightclub hospitality in the wake of the CMC's Operation Tesco probe.

Sen-Sgt Dimond blamed some police misconduct on the fact that Surfers Paradise was a "stressful" place to work. He said Surfers police had to regularly deal with violent offenders and were often subjected to complaints. "In some situations, they (also) go home to a stressful environment and that's where problems (with misconduct) arise because there's no opportunity for them to get a break from the stress they're dealing with," he said.

Sen-Sgt Dimond said police in Sydney's Kings Cross were rotated in six-month stints and it "works very well". "They're not exposed continuously, over a number of years, to the high levels of stress," he said.

Sen-Sgt Dimond also said police numbers in Surfers Paradise needed to be doubled on Friday and Saturday nights. He said 126 police were allocated to Surfers, but an average of only 85 were available for duty, due to officers being on leave or seconded to other areas."


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