As a young cop on patrol in Coburg he saw a drunk-driver swerving over the road. “When we pulled him over there was a body in the boot.”
For years many felt police should embrace the New York Police zero tolerance model known as Broken Windows. The theory was simple – fix the little problems before they became big ones.
New York Police also used the latest crime figures to blitz trouble spots. The side effect of Broken Windows was displacement – the crooks moved to another area away from scrutiny.
Now New York has another model, which is as old as policing itself – neighbourhood policing. It is not as sexy as setting up a new taskforce but it works.
The same police are put on the same shifts and work the same regions. They get to know the local residents and workers, learn their problems and are not diverted to assignments dispatched by radio.
This is the model embraced by Patton. As he puts it, “own your area”.
Local police will learn their trouble spots and get to know the community and local offenders. Their mere presence will deter crime and give people confidence that they are safe.
We have more police than ever before, and they are better equipped than ever before, and yet there has been a reduction in routine patrols.
Police are running from job to job, which has resulted in a reduction of proactive law enforcement.
Patton has ordered a review of all police activities to see what can be reduced to put cops back on the street, which means less committees and more crime fighting.
He says he wants police to be assertive and ready to make decisions. That seems obvious but for years there has been unremitting pressure on middle level police to play safe and to conclude the best decision is often no decision at all.
A large number of police injuries led to instructions that the priority in every operation should be the safety of police, the public and offenders.
If someone was hurt the supervisor would be drowned in paperwork to justify the actions. But sometimes police just have to act and worry about the consequences later.
Patton has made it clear, first as Deputy Commissioner and now as Chief Commissioner: Not only should you take action you must take action.
If you have to ram a hostile vehicle then do it. If you need to burst into an out-of-control party and grab the aggressive offenders then do it. If you come across an armed offender then engage.
His message is clear. Just get on with it.
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John Silvester is a Walkley-award winning crime writer and columnist. A co-author of the best-selling books that formed the basis of the hit Australian TV series Underbelly, Silvester is also a regular guest on 3AW with his “Sly of the Underworld” segment.