Saturday, September 10, 2011

More than 600 Queensland police officers caught breaking traffic laws in two years

A POLICE sergeant who let an unlicensed young woman drive his marked patrol car while he changed gears is one of more than 600 officers who have been caught breaking traffic laws in the past two years.

The officer from Dimbulah in far north Queensland was reported by a witness after the car swerved to miss a kangaroo and hit a tree, then drove off. He had been seen drinking at the Chillagoe Hotel, about 100km away, before the crash.

The Ethical Standards Command investigated the case, along with 44 others relating to police weaving through bus lanes, talking on mobile phones while driving, drink-driving on the job and even driving unlicensed.

Another 557 police were made to pay speeding or red-light offences out of their own pocket after it was found they had no valid excuse for breaking traffic laws.

In three more cases, the police service could not identify the driver and had to pay the "corporate" fine.

A Queensland Police Service spokesman said the infringements officers had to pay themselves amounted to "fewer than one a day".

He said police could only speed while responding to priority one or two jobs and go through a red light after stopping to ensure it was safe to do so.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said the fines showed police were treated no differently to others who broke traffic laws.

"If anything, police face more scrutiny and harsher treatment because of their role in the community," Mr Leavers said.

"Given there's more than 10,000 police in Queensland driving millions of kilometres a year, the numbers are really very small."

But Terry O'Gorman from the Queensland Council of Civil Liberties said it was appalling so many police were breaking traffic laws and escaping fines or disciplinary action.

Of the 45 cases investigated by ESC, 29 resulted in the lowest form of police discipline "managerial guidance" for the officers involved.

They included a motorcycle officer who drove at 146km/h in an 80km/h zone on the Sunshine Coast to catch another rider exceeding the speed limit by 28km/h.

A senior constable spotted talking on her mobile phone while escorting a long wide load was also given managerial guidance, as was an officer who used a police car for personal jobs, leaving his station and being unable to respond to an urgent case.

Mr Leavers said managerial guidance was a "valuable tool" in the disciplinary system.

Mr O'Gorman said their light-handed treatment reflected the attitude among police that there was "one law for them and another for the rest of us".

The Dimbulah sergeant was ordered to pay $9000 restitution to cover vehicle repairs and had his pay docked by about $40 a week.

* A constable whose licence had been suspended by SPER was caught on camera speeding despite not being on the way to a job.

* A policewoman was spotted talking on her mobile phone while escorting a long-wide load.

* A policeman talking on his mobile while driving told a civilian who questioned him that police were exempt from traffic laws.

* An off-duty constable pulled over by police when he was seen talking on his mobile phone then blew a blood-alcohol reading of 0.051 per cent.

* A police officer on the way to a disturbance at Woorabinda hit a kangaroo and then recorded an alcometer reading of 0.057 per cent after reporting the incident.

* A police car struck a woman walking through Brunswick Street Mall and offered her no assistance.

* An officer who dobbed in a police recruit applicant for speeding was disciplined himself for doing 143 in a 70km/h zone in an unauthorised pursuit while off-duty.

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