I have been able to follow some of the discussion about the Suppression of Escalated Crime (POLICE POWERS) Bill and I have been happy to read the queries on terms such as “escalated crime” and “escalated crime area” the latter, flowing from the definition of the former.
My thought contribution here is based on studies in crime control. Typically, in a discussion about crime areas you want to speak to rates and thresholds or other terms that suggest some metric at use. Such use communicates the timing of such designation and entry. It also allows for exit to be determined by a favourable change in the metric in use. There are some early wins using this route, one of which I sense are of concern to some people . Transparency and less perception of subjectivity. I could understand that.
Overall, checks and accountability are not visible or strong enough in this Bill as it is presented. It is only fair, given the social contract, that citizens who are asked to give up certain freedoms and rights have information that assists their participation in the journey towards a change in the metric, and they can remain conscious of excesses they witness or experience and seek justification and/or redress.
Countering the perception of subjectivity and inadequate transparency could be easily achieved by recognizing in the Bill, authorities, bodies, agencies for checks and balances. Additionally, new structures or the expansion of roles of others could be identified in the Bill to ensure representation from different groups such as community workers, youth workers, mayors, corrections, private sector, human and constitutional rights professionals, the bar association, academia and the opposition. This tier of representation and accountability would strengthen the seriousness of crime control and openness to inclusivity and ideas for managing and supporting the effort.
Interest from different groups should be expected when enhanced powers are given to the police. Groups may be interested in knowing if any change will occur with the enhanced powers and whether it will be enough. Amongst these groups are police unions or associations. Given the crime context, which involves violent criminal groupings and organized crime, it is of benefit to the officer who will be working in these escalated crime areas that resources, benefits, officer training are ventilated when such a Bill comes along.
Equipping the police to be fit for the challenge presented by crime trends and changing social conditions is part of a wider conversation on what is needed to control the problem. Cross sectional evidence and practice point to comprehensive strategies being used to tackle violence. The successful strategies that reduce crime in areas while providing crime reduction benefits in other areas have strong coordination. This coordination is tasked to a designated body in the criminal justice system for example, after a robust analysis of the underlying problems, with whole-of-government and/or whole-of-society support for suppression, social intervention, opportunity provision, organizational change and community mobilization.
The discussion of the Bill should be a welcome because it is an opportune time to take stock of whatever national plan exist to address conditions at individual, community and organizational levels creating and supportive of anti-social conduct. Importantly, with coordination, underlying problem analysis, data, whole-of-government and society and what works well when together forms the core of the plan. Integrated plans such as this have a results framework and facilitate action during implementation derived from monitoring, evaluation and learning.
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