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Workshop participants' perceptions of the current status of policing responses to drug problems in rural and remote communities

Good practice framework: policing illicit drugs in rural and remote local communities (Delahunty & Putt 2006b) outlines a systematic process that police can use to assess, plan respond to and evaluate drug problems in these communities. It considers these approaches from strategic (statewide), local district (regional) and local perspectives. Part of the Monograph contains a checklist that police can use to review and monitor how well drug problems are being addressed from each of these perspectives.

The Workshop participants were provided with a copy of the checklist that appears on pages 10 and 11 of Good practice framework. They were asked to provide an indication of how they rated existing policing practices in relation to each of the 37 aspects of good practice. They used a scale from one to three, with one representing a positive perception and three representing a negative perception. Each of the 37 aspects were rated from statewide, regional and local perspectives. There was variation in how participants completed the questionnaire. For instance, some participants only answered questions at one level (e.g. local) while others answered at two or three levels. Some participants did not answer all questions at any one level and some answered some questions at each level.

In total:

  • 16 participants rated some or all of the practices from a statewide perspective
  • 14 participants rated some or all of the practices from a regional perspective
  • 24 participants rated some or all of the practices from a local perspective.

The results were then compiled and the scores for each of the 111 practices (37x3) averaged to provide an overview of the perceptions of participants. The authors of the Monograph divided the 37 aspects of good practice into six general topics, namely:

  • drug strategies
  • custodial safety
  • communication and liaison
  • education and training
  • improving recruiting
  • safety and crime prevention.

This enabled an average score to be applied to each of these general topics.

The results of this exercise provide a basic indication of how the workshop participants, who were a very small selection of those involved in policing illicit drug use in Indigenous communities, see relevant areas of practice. These results are not representative of the views of police more broadly, either within the areas and jurisdictions represented or beyond. While a similar exercise was conducted at the Alice Springs workshop, and the results presented in the report of that workshop, a different scale was used with each group of participants so the data are not comparable. The report of the Alice Springs workshop noted that the results of that exercise were likely skewed towards the situation in the Northern Territory. It is likely that these results will be similarly skewed towards situations relevant to New South Wales and Victoria and not necessarily those occurring elsewhere.

The results indicate that workshop participants felt that most practices and strategies were working reasonably well, but with for room for improvement in many areas (see Table 1). At regional and local levels, participants saw the strengths of policing in what may be considered core policing activities such as assessing local drug crimes and intelligence networks, providing alternatives to arrest and charging, assessing local crime trends and in crime prevention information and advice. There were also generally positive responses to practices involving support and referral for Indigenous victims and witnesses and local complaints monitoring. Positive responses were also given to practices involving working at a community level, such as Aboriginal police liaison/community police and police/community meetings.

Participants were more critical in the areas of education and training and recruitment. There was a perceived lack of a resource list for Indigenous personnel and deficiencies in providing specialised training for those working in communities with a high proportion of Indigenous residents and encouraging local Indigenous community members to become involved in training. Recruitment was perceived as a problematic area, with deficiencies in strategies for targeting local Indigenous applicants, preparatory courses, career development assistance and mentoring programs for Indigenous applicants. While, as noted, the results from Mildura are not directly comparable with those from Alice Springs, it is worth noting that workshop participants in Alice Springs also noted education and training as an area particularly in need of recruitment. As noted in the report of that earlier workshop, there would be value in conducting a learning/needs analysis for police working in communities with a high proportion of Indigenous residents.

There could also be much to gain from working with local communities and Indigenous personnel to improve Indigenous peoples' access to employment in police services and supporting those already employed in shaping and directing their careers. Initiatives are underway in police agencies. For example, at the time of writing, the NSWPF was due to release its Aboriginal Employment Strategy 2009–2012 and was working with adult education and training providers on developing vocational pathways and school-based traineeships to assist Aboriginal people become police officers.

Table 1: Respondents' rating of existing police practices against good practice framework, at state, regional and local level
Theme Statewide Regional Local Topic average
Drug strategies
Assess local drug crime—seizures, charges, information 2.1 1.5 1.4
Assess intelligence network 2.1 1.8 1.6
Formal and informal meeting with local community regarding priorities in DLE 2.4 2.0 2.0
Protocols with health and other services 2.3 2.1 2.3
Agreed processes to manage and promote diversion of drug offenders 2.0 1.7 2.1 2.0
Custodial safety
Local or regional alternatives to arrest/charging 2.0 1.8 1.6
Local or regional alternatives to incarceration 2.4 2.0 1.9
Protocols to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, Aboriginal medical and community health services and other agencies 2.3 2.1 2.2
Local complaints monitoring 2.0 1.6 1.6
Use and /or promotion of other 'alternative services' e.g. community justice panels, elders, sobering-up centres, translators 2.1 2.0 2.2
Improved prisoner screening processes and access to medical support and counselling services in watch houses 2.0 1.9 1.7
Assessment of local or regional monitoring systems (arrest and/or complaints) 2.3 2.0 1.8 2.0
Communications and liaison
Aboriginal police liaison/community police (or equivalent) 1.8 1.5 1.6
Police/community meetings 2.1 1.8 1.7
Relationships with other key agencies 2.2 2.2 2.0
Participation in youth programs and activities (sporting and cultural) 2.3 2.2 2.0
Respect for and/or participation in traditions/events/celebrations (not youth sporting and cultural events) 1.9 2.0 1.9
Greater/improved support for Indigenous victims and witnesses 1.9 1.8 1.9
Provide referral and/or advice on services available to Indigenous victims and witnesses 2.0 1.8 1.7
Use of leaders and others with authority to convey information 2.5 2.4 2.2 2.0
Education and training
Local level cultural training—ongoing 2.5 2.1 2.0
Resource list of Indigenous personnel 2.7 2.6 2.4
Specialist training for those in communities with significant Indigenous populations 2.6 2.5 2.2
Specialist training for officers attending family violence incidents 2.3 2.3 2.0
Encourage local Indigenous community members to become involved in training delivery 2.6 2.5 2.3 2.3
Improving recruitment
Strategies targeting local Indigenous applicants 2.7 2.6 2.5
Use appropriate and respected Indigenous representatives on selection and other panels 2.0 2.0 2.1
Preparatory courses 2.3 2.4 2.3
Identifying racist tendencies in applicants 2.0 2.0 2.5
Career development assistance 2.6 2.2 2.4
Mentoring program for Indigenous recruits 2.4 2.6 2.6 2.4
Safety and crime prevention
Assess local crime trends 1.7 1.7 1.4
Strategy to reduce family violence 2.1 1.9 1.8
Multi-agency partnerships 2.1 2.3 1.9
Assist Indigenous community to develop diversionary programs and to encourage their use 2.3 2.3 2.2
Assist community to secure external funding for crime prevention initiatives 2.4 2.3 2.4
Crime prevention and other information availability/accessibility 2.0 1.7 1.8 2.0

In the above table, scores that fall below 2.0 tend to indicate positive perceptions and these become more positive as the score approaches 1.0. At the other end of the scale, scores approaching 3.0 indicate more negative perceptions.

Last updated
3 November 2017