Police union officials from around Australia have called for millions of dollars in funding to build national criminal and intelligence databases, in the wake of recent attacks on police employees.
State, territory and federal police union presidents and officials met in Adelaide on Tuesday to speak on responses to terrorism in Australia. High on the agenda were calls for state and federal governments to fund a national case management system to track offenders, a national criminal intelligence network to replace a 30-year-old model and a dedicated mobile broadband network for emergency services.
Police Association of South Australia and Police Federation of Australia president Mark Carroll, Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers, Police Association Victoria president John Laird, Western Australian Police Union president George Tilbury, Northern Territory Police Association president Paul McCue, Police Association of New South Wales executive committee member Craig Partridge, Police Association of Tasmania branch secretary Sarah Gray and Police Federation of Australia CEO Mark Burgess were among those who met to push the case for the upgrades.
Burgess told The Huffington Post Australia police are forced to work with outdated or unwieldy technology to track criminals and share intelligence, or to navigate several different state-based systems in the absence of a uniform national network.
"What we’ve been proposing is supported strongly by what's happened in the last year," Burgess said, alluding to the shooting of NSW Police employee Curtis Cheng earlier this month and the stabbing of two Melbourne police officers in September 2014.
"There are a number of examples we're aware of, examples we can't talk about publicly... If these systems were available, we might not have been able to prevent everything, but police would have been far better prepared."
Flowers outside Parramatta police headquarters after Curtis Cheng was shot dead
Burgess said all three measures had received near-unanimous support when raised in parliament or during feasibility studies, but that little progress had been made on what he said were essential upgrades.
"We’re operating a number of systems which are state-based and a national system which is quite cumbersome. These are 30-year-old systems. There should be one new national criminal intelligence system," he said.
"There's work being done on that by the Australian Crime Commission, but we’re fearful that nobody will agree on it and it will come to a halt."
He envisaged a national intelligence system that would be accessible from every policing jurisdiction in Australia, with varying levels of access for different police units -- "there would be significant holdings only accessible by the most senior anti-terrorism police, but it would be a national collaboration into one national system," he said.
Burgess said a dedicated broadband channel for emergency services was also crucial in sharing information quickly between units from handheld cameras or phones and body-worn or car-mounted cameras.
"The police officers on the street would be able to receive and transmit vision and data instantaneously around the country and back to command points," he said.
"This would be enormously beneficial in counter-terrorism and organised crime, and natural disasters."
Burgess said new technology would help in critical situations, like the Martin Place siege
Burgess said the systems would not only aid police in anti-terrorism operations, but have flow-on effects in the sectors of domestic violence, drugs, organised crime and tracking illegal firearms.
He said the broadband network could be implemented for little cost, claiming the federal government already owned 30 megahertz of broadband spectrum and asked for 20 MHz to be given to an emergency services channel. Burgess said estimates valued the intelligence service at around $60million, and the case management system to be approximately the same cost.
He said the funds could largely be raised through the adoption of a national "unexplained wealth" scheme, where criminals who could not account for how they managed to amass their wealth would have those funds seized and placed into public funds.
"From a police association and union perspective, our eight unions around Australia have got 98 percent density and represent 60,000 police across the country, and we are rock solid unanimous that we support these measures," Burgess said.
"This is a national issue that requires a national response."