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‘Unsustainable’ Operation Regional Shield ‘can’t solve’ crime in Kimberley: Police Union

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WA Police Union president Mick Kelly speaking on behalf of  the union’s members.
Camera IconWA Police Union president Mick Kelly speaking on behalf of the union’s members. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

The WA Police Union has questioned the effectiveness of Operation Regional Shield, labelling it “unsustainable” as figures reveal an increase in assaults on officers in the Kimberley.

At the WA Police Union conference on November 23 to 24, a motion asking Police Commissioner Col Blanch to outline the long and short term strategies of the operation slammed the effectiveness of the policing campaign.

“The cost involved, both monetary and in staff power is unsustainable. These issues do not seem to be abating and, if anything, are becoming worse,” the motion said.

“The issues are not a ‘police problem’ but a socio-economic one.”

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“Extending Operation Regional Shield does not solve these issues. There must be a multi-agency approach to develop a long term solution for these regional areas.”

Speaking to the effectiveness of Regional Shield WA, Police Union President Mick Kelly said policing was only part of the solution and a multi-agency response was needed.

“There needs to be the other government agencies working with the WA Police. Locking people up is not always the right solution,” he said.

“The operation is obviously not something that can continue forever.

“There needs to be diversionary programs, there needs to be programs to try keep kids in school and steer them away from crime.”

Another motion requested Police Commissioner Blanch to change Operation Regional Shield deployment periods from three weeks to two, citing the lack of remuneration or entitlements for officers and the stress put on them and their families as reasoning.

“From our point of view, the operation is working to suppress crime but is also creating deployment fatigue for our officers,” Mr Kelly said.

With the motion passing, Mr Kelly said officer’s deployment period would change from three weeks to two starting from December 1.

It comes as numbers supplied by Police Minister Paul Papalia in parliament on November 29 reveal the total number of assaults on police in the Kimberley had increased by 51 since the 2019-20 financial year.

Citing that assaults on police officers are at a 10-year high, Mr Kelly said there had also been an upwards trend in offenders spitting on officers which could have contributed to the increase.

“One of the concerning factors was 28 per cent of assaults on officers was from foreign body matter and that is spittle.”

“We’re finding there’s an upward trend of people that think it’s okay to spit in the face of our officers.”

It comes as ABC Kimberley reported on November 30, 306 Kimberley juveniles aged 10-17 were arrested by WA Police this year, surpassing the 302 from last year.

WA Police launched Operation Regional Shield in April in an effort to tackle the unprecedented youth crime wave in the Kimberley, with WA Police Union figures revealing in March a 96 per cent increase in the severity of crime in the Kimberley over the past decade.

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