Riding shotgun: New cops not taught to drive
Experienced police are being forced to chauffeur dozens of academy graduates who have not been trained to drive police vehicles, with authorities blaming COVID-19 for exiling them to the passenger seat.
The Townsville Bulletin can reveal 38 of the 55 police officers who graduated from Townsville Police Academy last week have not been adequately trained, despite graduating early.
Queensland Police Service (QPS) would not reveal where the officers had been stationed, but the Bulletin understands there is several officers working around Townsville.
Last Monday, 22 graduates were distributed around Townsville's stations, 17 in the Far North, five at Mt Isa, six in Mackay and five in Capricornia.
Police Minister Mark Ryan told Queensland Parliament last month how police were "better equipped and trained than ever before" while touting the Labor's "record" $2.6 billion police budget.
The Bulletin understands the inexperienced recruits can legally drive a police vehicle, but cannot undertake common tasks required as a police officer.
This includes driving under lights and sirens, intercepting cars, and speeding up or driving through a red light to intercept a vehicle.
North Queensland Shadow Minister Dale Last said this was a "dramatic failure".
"This is a disgraceful situation that should never have been allowed to happen," he said.
"Urgent duty driving is a fundamental part of policing and not only are these officers hamstrung in terms of responding to the most urgent of jobs, this failure also puts the officers, their colleagues and the general public in real danger."
Mr Ryan addressed the graduates last week, saying the State Government valued "regional and remote communities and is committed to ensuring people living in these areas feel safe and secure".
He echoed the same advice as QPS, who said COVID-19 was to blame for the disruption in training.
"Due to travel restrictions implemented by the Chief Health Officer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of exposure to coronavirus, the Queensland Police Service considered there was an unacceptable risk of exposing recruits to the coronavirus by sending officers from Townsville to conduct driver training at Wacol in Brisbane," she said.
QPS were unable to reveal when the recruits would be trained, saying it would be scheduled "as soon as practical".
"The officers are authorised to undertake all duties required of a police officer with the exception of urgent duty driving," she said.
The latest round of graduates comes just one month before the State Government's deadline to commit 53 additional police officers to Townsville.
The promised police, pledged more than two years ago, have almost been filled with a spokesman from Mr Ryan's office saying 49 of the 53 police officers have boots on the ground.
Originally published as Riding shotgun: New cops not taught to drive