Cops manning borders instead of protecting our kids
CHILD protection investigators and homicide detectives are being dragged off the front line to man interstate checkpoints amid renewed calls for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to reopen the borders.
Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers, a former child protection officer, yesterday said some of the state's most experienced officers were stuck on border duty while "crime runs rampant" and questioned the justification for ongoing border closures as the number of coronavirus cases falls.
With Queensland this week in shock over horrific cases of child cruelty, The Courier-Mail can reveal child protection investigators and homicide detectives are among the hundreds of police officers pulled from frontline duties to man border checkpoints across the state.
The operation is costing an estimated $1.5 million a month.
Overtime, travel expenses and even free meals have sent costs skyrocketing for an already stretched police budget with more than 100 plainclothes officers pulled from regular duties to fill border and quarantine hotel patrols.
Police Minister Mark Ryan said Queensland now had a record number of police officers and the border posts were "disrupting significant crimes" but Mr Leavers questioned the science behind the closure, saying it did not make sense and compromised other police responsibilities.
"In times of crisis, child abuse increases yet because of border closures, we have police guarding checkpoints instead of keeping children safe," he said. "As unemployment spirals out of control in tourism centres like the Gold Coast, more and more people are turning to crime to pay their bills owing to border closures, and rather than police keeping the community safe we're stuck on borders while crime runs rampant.
"The Premier needs to overrule the Chief Health Officer and … open the border now or we will soon be in a position where the so-called cure of border closures is worse than the disease itself."
A spokesman for Mr Ryan said Ms Palaszczuk and Dr Young had made it clear border restrictions were to protect Queenslanders' health.
The Premier has also backed Dr Young as the best health officer in the country.
Opposition police spokesman Dan Purdie, a former police officer, said it was costing millions for officers to man the border checkpoints while the cost to the community was even greater.
"Our police always have and always will rise to any challenge, but the thin blue line has never been thinner," he said. "It's not only the cost to the already underfunded police budget, but of greater concern is the cost to the community of hundreds of police taken away from their core duties fighting crime and keeping our communities safe.
"Not only has the Labor government closed the borders against Commonwealth medical advice, but it could cost the state's tourism industry billions of dollars, on top of the millions for our police to perform a task many are asking if it is even necessary."
Mr Ryan said the allocation of police resources was a matter for Commissioner Katarina Carroll but defended the role of police on the border checkpoints, which are also staffed by personnel from the military and other agencies.
"As well as helping keep the community safe from the spread of COVID-19, the work of police on the borders is disrupting significant crimes," he said, citing examples of vehicle intercepts which had led to major drug busts.
"Police stationed at our border checkpoints are doing an excellent job at not only maintaining border restrictions, but also detecting and preventing criminal activity."
Mr Ryan said fast-tracking police academy graduations meant Queensland now had a record number of sworn officers to face the coronavirus.
Originally published as OUTRAGE: Cops manning borders instead of protecting our kids