South Australia Police


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:24): I move:

That this house—

(a) congratulates the South Australian p olice f orce for 175 years of service to our state; and

(b) recognises the excellent work of police officers who have served and currently serve our community.

It gives me great pleasure to move this motion, both as the member for Stuart and also as the shadow Minister for Police. The police in our state do excellent work. I will start by working through a few key dates. It is not possible to go through everything that could possibly be relevant to 175 years of history, but I will pick out a few that I think are particularly relevant. The South Australian police force, now renamed South Australia Police (or SAPOL), is unique in the history of Australian police forces in as much as, since its foundation on 28 April 1836, it has been continually centrally administered. This makes it the oldest police organisation in Australia and in Australasia, and one of the oldest established police forces in the world. Members will know that our state was proclaimed in 1836, so very shortly after that.

This happens by Governor Hindmarsh appointing inspector Inman, and asking inspector Inman to go and find 20 officers—10 on foot and 10 mounted—to support him. It was a pleasure to be at the Police Academy on Sunday and see a re-enactment of that, with the minister and many other people. For 120 years the fundamental structure of the South Australia Police was the division between mounted—typically country—and foot—typically metropolitan—police, even though some mounted police were in Adelaide and some foot police were in the country.

In 1838 the first police barracks were built on the north side of North Terrace, behind the present SA Museum. Prior to that, mounted constables, who later became known as troopers, had to be quartered in public houses or private lodgings. The administration of the Northern Territory was taken over by South Australia in 1863. The Northern Territory police were established in 1870, with one inspector and six men. They were part of the South Australia Police, but were managed entirely by an inspector in charge, who was responsible to the minister for the territory.

In 1890 the force was divided into three branches—mounted, foot and detective—and the state was divided into six police divisions: metropolitan, suburban, south-eastern, central, northern and Far North. Police stations had also been established throughout the interior following the telegraph line to Darwin. It is interesting to see that these days South Australia is split up into 12 LSAs—six metro and country/outback—which is not a lot different to what was done back in 1890.

In 1891, 1 Angas Street, Adelaide became the permanent address of the headquarters of the South Australia police department. Again it is interesting to see that today we have a brand new police headquarters just down the road at 100 Angas Street, Adelaide. Very importantly, in 1911 the Police Association was established. It is fair to recognise that the Police Association is a very longstanding—just over 100 years old—organisation representing its members, and I think most people would acknowledge that, as far as organisations which represent police go, it is one of the most successful operating in our state. The South Australia women's police branch came into operation on 1 December 1915, the primary reason being the growing social problem of immorality in the community.

Ms Bedford: And it's all women's fault!

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: I am not sure what they might think of today's situation—

The SPEAKER: I call the member for Florey to order.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: While we know that we live in a very fine state, I am sure the people from 1911 would find extraordinary the lifestyle we lead today.

Ms Bedford interjecting:

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The member for Florey might find this particularly interesting: the branch was the first women's police service in the then British empire and the second in the world, following Los Angeles in 1910. Since their inception, South Australian women police have had the same powers of apprehension as male officers. I think that is a credit to the South Australia Police and to our state.

In June 1922, the department purchased two Harley Davidson motorcycles with side cars for the control of traffic and special urgent police cases. These were the first motorised transport for South Australia Police, and in 1923 the first police car (a Hudson Tourer) was purchased. Again, it is fascinating to look at what we do today, with police having cars, boats, four-wheel drives, helicopters, planes and so on. Also, it is interesting to see that bicycles back then were pivotal modes of transport for police, as they are still today.

Ever since 1938, the police have been run as two distinct branches, the foot and the mounted, later to become the metropolitan and the country police. In July 1958, the department amalgamated into one service. In 1961, the former military establishment at historic Fort Largs was acquired by the police and began operating as the police academy. The site was vacated when a new training facility was built adjacent to the former, opened in 2012 as the South Australia Police Academy, where training continues today.

It was a great pleasure to be there on Sunday with the minister and many police officers of all ranks (from cadets all the way through to the commissioner), representatives of emergency services, corrections, justice and the military, and of course many men, women, boys and girls from the public, to see a re-enactment of the history and much of the equipment being used and on display. It was an absolutely fantastic day at the Police Academy.

I would also like to touch on three other key dates. In 1982, we had the first Blue Light Disco; in 1985, Neighbourhood Watch was established; and, in 1966, Crime Stoppers was established. They are very important because they move on to the vital interactive two-way role between police and the community, and it is very important, in my mind, that that relationship is very much a two-way street: neither can do well without the other.

We have come a long way as a society over the last 175 years, and so has SAPOL. Public expectations have changed and two examples are the treatment of Aboriginal people and the treatment of women over the last 175 years, which has changed significantly, just as the roles Aboriginal people and women play in the police force have certainly grown over that time, as they should have. SAPOL's role has changed in line with changed public expectations, but what has not changed is SAPOL's commitment to meet those expectations.

Let me also say that the police are not perfect, neither the organisation nor the individuals, just like the rest of society. Mistakes occur and, very rarely, some things inappropriate are done which could not be classified as mistakes. The police are just the same as everybody else in society—1 per cent of us are angels, 1 per cent of us are devils and the vast majority of the rest of us are in the middle. Police are absolutely no different, just like members of parliament and just like people in any other field of work.

I do occasionally get complaints in my electorate about the police and I do take them seriously, but what is very important is that there are almost always two sides to the story. In the same way as police should not all be lumped together into one category, neither should police lump all members of the public into one category, and I get concerned when I hear reports of categories of people being targeted by police, and I get concerned when I hear reports of individual police officers using the full extent of their powers when less would have been sufficient and probably more useful to all concerned.

However, having said that, we are extremely fortunate in South Australia not only to have the oldest police force in the nation but also to have the most popular, most trusted and most respected police force in the nation, with an 85 per cent public satisfaction rating. I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that is an extraordinary result and something that all South Australians, but particularly SAPOL, deserve to be extremely proud of. I genuinely thank the South Australian police service, sworn and unsworn, cadets through to commissioners, who have served us and serve us today. From the Angas Street headquarters to police stations in Yalata, Marla and Cockburn, doing work from Hindley Street to Innamincka, congratulations on your 175 years and thank you for your work on behalf of our state.

Thankfully, most days police officers do not deal with personally dangerous situations, but every single day they go to work with the full knowledge that they may do so that day. Some days they do take calculated risks with their own personal safety on behalf of the people in their state, and I very genuinely thank them and their families for that. Every single day a police officer goes to work, he or she knows that it might be a day that they have to put their own personal safety (or potentially their own life) at risk on behalf of our community, and that is something that should never, ever be forgotten or taken for granted.

Police officers deserve to have their own safety treated as the highest priority when they are at work. They deserve to have the resources they need to do their job properly. I think it is also very important for them and the community to know that they serve the community. The police do not and should not serve themselves as individuals. The police do not and should not serve SAPOL above the community. They are there to serve the community. They are an asset to the community. We are incredibly fortunate to have them working on behalf of our community, and I again congratulate them and thank them for their 175 years of service to our state.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (12:44): Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker, and let me acknowledge you as a former police minister. In the role of Deputy Speaker, you would certainly, I am sure, share everybody's support for this motion. I do genuinely appreciate everybody's support. I think it is very fair that this house gives the police the credit that they deserve. It is wonderful to have had that and I appreciate all of the contributions. The minister, certainly, was the only person who strayed away from the content of the motion and no doubt he felt that was important to do that, but I appreciate his support for the motion.

I particularly recognise the member for Little Para and the member for Mitchell who have direct connection: one as a former serving police officer; and one as a very, understandably, proud father of a nearly-probationary constable. I think that is wonderful and I do remember being at one of the Police Academy graduations with the member for Mitchell recently where he represented the Minister for Police and told me at the time that his son was coming through, I think the second or third one after that. I know how proud he is and we are all very pleased for him. So thank you for your genuine contribution.

Let me also just add, as many members have said—the member for Goyder, the member for Frome, the member for Schubert, and others—what good support we get with regard to working relationships with police in our local our electorates. It is 100 per cent true that all we have to do as members of parliament is pick up the phone, talk to the right person and we will get the direct information. I think that responsible relationship in both directions is something that we all value very highly and really do appreciate. Certainly, in the electorate of Stuart, which covers a broad part of the state, that is the case in all parts of that electorate.

I touch very briefly on the role of country police—something that the member for Goyder touched on. Again, it is particularly pertinent to the electorate of Stuart and I know that, as a person who lived in Pimba (a very small, tiny place) for seven years—nothing to do with parliament, in fact, I never imagined at that stage that I would be a member of parliament—the way the police interacted with all the community in that district then and there was very important. It is critical in Hindley Street, it is critical at Christies Beach, it is critical in the lovely leafy suburbs of Adelaide and I think it is perhaps even more critical in the country areas where the two-way relationship becomes even more critical. The community need a policeman or woman and it is very often just one person, but the police officer needs the community as well and that relationship almost always works extremely well.

I was brought up as a small boy and told by my parents, 'If you ever get yourself in trouble, if you are ever lost, find a police officer.' That was the beginning of my relationship with the police. I was taught that they would be the people who would help you if you needed a hand. Of course, that moved on to, 'Don't break the speed limit when you're driving because they will be the people who will ping you'—quite understandably. So I have a very positive view of the police from my early growing up, but not everybody does. I have close friends who do not share that view and I respect that for various reasons. I respect their opinion; I do not share it.

Police are not perfect in the same way as members of parliament are not perfect. Mistakes happen; things happen for one reason or another that should not happen, and they need to be recognised as incidents, as mistakes. It is inappropriate to brand a whole profession for the fact that occasionally mistakes are made or the wrong thing is done.

On the whole, South Australian police are absolutely outstanding. They are the most trusted and most respected of all of the police in our nation. I think it is an extraordinary credit to the South Australian police that they are the oldest police force in Australia. Today, 175 years later, they are also the most trusted and most appreciated police force in Australia.

I thank all the people who have had anything to do with the police, obviously serving officers, but many other people who have worked in police as well for the last 175 years. I give my thanks and gratitude to their families as well, whether it is their children, their siblings, their spouses, their parents or grandparents. When you have a police officer in the family, you share some of the tension, you share some of the risk that those people take when they go to work every day to represent us and keep us safe.

Motion carried.


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