IS THIS POLICE FORCE BEHIND THE TIMES IN TECHNOLOGY?

VITAL police communication tools have been slammed as outdated in a major review of Queensland’s emergency services.

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Former federal police boss Mick Keelty found a lack of investment in technology had left police officers significantly behind similar frontline organisations.

He wants every police officer to be issued with iPads or similar devices to perform instant searches or file reports from the road.

Mr Keelty’s final 400-page report into Police and Community Safety will be tabled in parliament today after being taken to Cabinet yesterday, where it was accepted in principle.

Civilians will replace uniformed police officers in speed camera vans and wide-load escorts after other recommendations from Mr Keelty, despite police union warnings it could lead to road deaths.

The Queensland Ambulance Service and Corrective Services departments will be moved, and the police and fire services will merge some office functions.

In another recommendation, the fleet of 2400 police vehicles would be fitted with GPS technology so their positions could be known at all times.

The ambulance and fire services can already track the movement of vehicles to help assign them to emergencies, while police rely on officers radioing in.

Poor police technology – in which officers must use radio to conduct vehicle registration and other searches – was frustrating officers and hampering their emergency and lifesaving work, Mr Keelty found.

Officers are also using their own video equipment at work and download the recordings at home because of a lack of service capacity.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart recently implemented a major restructure of the service which will remain largely the same.

However the state government will forge ahead with long-expected plans to take speed camera vans out of the hands of police, who operate them on overtime.

Speed cameras could be outsourced to private operators, be handed over to civilian public servants or be moved to another department.

The Queensland Police Service has fiercely opposed the move, warning it will destroy the system’s integrity and compliance and lead to more road deaths.

Police earn about $10 million a year in overtime from speed camera vans, or an average of $15,000 a year for the 600 trained officers.

The Queensland Ambulance Service will move from the Community Safety department to Queensland Health. Corrective Services, which runs the state’s prisons, will move to the department of Justice and the Attorney-General.

The remaining Community Services department will be renamed the department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Current fire commissioner Lee Johnson will lead the department, putting a uniformed officer in charge instead of a director-general. A deputy commissioner will be in charge of rural fire fighters.

The change is aimed at putting “emergency services back in charge of emergency services”, in line with the police commissioner heading the police service.

Business support areas – such as human resources and information management – in the police and fire services will merge and will be led by a chief executive of portfolio business.

The Keelty report does not flag job losses as a result of the merge and staff are expected to predominantly “stay in the same chairs”.

A new position of Inspector-General for emergency management will oversee the portfolio.

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Henry Sapiecha

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