POLICE RED TAPE AND PAPERWORK REDUCTION
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO:
My question is addressed to the Minister for Police. Will he update the House on the Iemma Government's latest initiatives to allow police to spend more time on the front line fighting crime?
Mr DAVID CAMPBELL:
I thank the member for Penrith for her question and I am sure that front-line police in Penrith are using the mobile police station to good effect. The public expects high impact, high visibility policing of our streets to ensure that our communities are safe places in which to live and work. The New South Wales Government is delivering on this commitment every day. We have increased police numbers to a record authorised strength of 15,206 with a further 750 police appointed over the next three years. But more than that, as the Minister for Police I am committed to cutting red tape and paperwork for our front-line officers so that they spend less time behind their desks and more time on the beat, deterring crime and locking up thieves, thugs and street-level drug dealers.
We have streamlined the police complaints system to free up police time and reduce undue stress on officers. Now we are also implementing dramatic changes to the paperwork that police use to charge crooks. The streamlined arrest-to-charge process will cut down significantly on the time that police spend filling out forms and waiting around after they lock up a criminal. The new process is expected to save up to 100,000 police hours a year. The formula is simple: the less time spent by police in filling out forms, the more time they have to spend on the front line. The streamlined system will be introduced across New South Wales. It has been drawn up in consultation with senior and front-line police officers. I am confident it will be very popular among front-line officers.
I have visited dozens of police stations right across New South Wales where time and time again officers have told me how frustrating the current system can be, and how they hate unnecessary paperwork. As Minister for Police, I cannot justify two police officers being delayed for an average of five hours each after arresting a person and taking that person to the station to be charged. It is estimated that at least half of that time is unproductive. That old-fashioned system has no place in modern policing. That is why we are making the changes that are necessary—to cut down time and make arresting and charging simpler and less taxing on officers.
The changes are simple but effective and include introducing a system whereby property seized by police during a search warrant needs to be recorded once only whereas currently exhibits are written up once in the field and again at the police station; introducing tamper-proof property bags, resulting in a suspect's property not needing to be itemised and recorded in a police inventory; more often photographing exhibits and storing fewer of them in the knowledge that 90 per cent of all exhibits are never used in court; simplifying data entry on the police computer system [COPS]; simplifying a summary of the legal rights read to criminals upon their arrest which, under the current system, takes six minutes to read; and stopping the practice of requiring an officer from a separate station to attend in relation to a search warrant.
A government can provide funds and resources to train and recruit police officers. Since the last election campaign, the Iemma Government has committed 1,500 extra police officers of whom more than half have been appointed already. But the real test is ensuring that our police officers are used most effectively. "Most effectively" does not mean pushing pens but, rather, walking the beat, talking to the community, investigating crimes and being police officers in the true sense of the occupation. Initiatives such as our arrest-to-charge streamlining project offer changes to simplify the police process for putting together briefs of evidence and the streamlining of the police complaints system.
The initiatives support the New South Wales Police Force in its ongoing effort to meet the Government's crime reduction targets under the New South Wales State Plan. Under the State Plan, the Premier has set crime reduction targets, including a 10 per cent decrease in violent crime and a 15 per cent decrease in property crime to be achieved by 2016. The State Plan focuses also on fostering the values of respect and responsibility and ensuring that high community standards are maintained by targeting noisy neighbours, public drunkenness and hoon drivers. Police are doing a great job driving towards achievement of those targets.
I remind the House that all 17 of the main categories of crime either are stable or are decreasing, according to the latest report from the independent Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Police deserve to be congratulated. The Government will continue to push new initiatives to make the working lives of police officers more productive and to ensure that they will continue to drive down crime.