Thursday 26 June 2008
Estimates Committee B (Cox)
Role of the Police and Customer Relations
Mr JOHNSTON - The majority of customer service complaints are the nature of 'the police officer pulled me over and I wasn't speeding', 'the police officer pulled me over and was rude to me' and they are referred to the district.  They are the two major sources of complaints.  If you were to categorise them even further I think you would find that complaints about not wearing seat belts is a pretty dominant complaint, 'Yes, I was wearing my seat belt but the police officer said I wasn't' and that is a pretty common complaint that is made in the customer service complaint area.  They would be the two major categories and the major subcategory is seat belts.

Mr FINCH - Can I ask a question on that?  How far down the line do those 91 customer service complaints go before they are registered as complaints?  Let us say somebody is pulled over and they go to see the local commander or something and say, 'I was wearing a seat belt, blah, blah' and the commander says, 'I hear what you are saying, away you go'.  Is that then registered as a complaint?

Mr JOHNSTON - That would be my expectation. But like all of these things, not everything gets recorded in the way that you would want it to.  This is not a game about trying to generate or not generate statistics; it is about resolving somebody's dissatisfaction with the policing service.  If somebody walked into the local inspector - for argument's sake at Deloraine or at Devonport - and said, 'Look this happened,' and the inspector looked at it and said, 'I can understand what you are saying and I can resolve that now.'  It probably is not a complaint.

Mr FINCH - It is not mandatory?

Mr JOHNSTON - It is not mandatory that it be recorded as this.

Mr FINCH - It is not mandatory to register that complaint?

Mr JOHNSTON - No, because police deal with complaints from the public about police all the time.  Thankfully most of them are dealt with to the satisfaction of the people involved.

Mr COX - Some of the complaints you are referring to, Mr Finch, could even be seen as almost counselling, I guess.

Mr JOHNSTON - And providing advice.  Quite often people come in with a misconception about the law.  When it is explained to them, they say, 'I am still not necessarily happy but at least I have a better understanding,' so they do not have a complaint as such any more.

Mr WING - A misconception about the role of the police they think that they should be catching real criminals rather than them.

Mr COX - We occasionally get the letters too, and we pass those on.  We get the odd disgruntled person, and they are always dealt with very quickly and very efficiently.

Mr FINCH - It begs the question, Minister, when does it register -

Mr COX - When does it become a statistic?

Mr FINCH - Yes, what makes these 91 stand out so that they are registered and end up being in your statistics?

Mr JOHNSTON - I have to confess that I did not bring the definitions with me.  We have a customer service charter, which I might indicate is being refreshed right now and there will be a new version of that out soon.  That contains information for the commander in the district to ensure that he understands what does and does not need to be registered.  A very simple rule of thumb that I would suggest is applied by the commander of the district is where there is an unresolved concern by the public that needs the intervention of the commander.

Mr HINE            - There are specific guidelines in the police manual as guidance to police officers.  If it cannot be resolved at the spot, then they are advised to take the customer service complaint and tell the senior officer.  So there are specific guidelines for police officers in the manual and in the internal investigations manual as well.  The line is quite clear:  If you cannot resolve it, you will take the customer service complaint, register it and it goes to the commander.  He decides what goes on to it, allocates an officer to investigate it and then it is resolved at the district level or, if there is an internal investigation, there would be other processes if it is a more serious complaint.  So it is quite laid out in the police manual.

Mr FINCH - Thank you.