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Former cop speaks out on culture

Dysart officer-in-charge Sergeant Ian Park has left the force due to what he describes as its empty lip service and lack of respect.
Dysart officer-in-charge Sergeant Ian Park has left the force due to what he describes as its empty lip service and lack of respect. Tara Miko

AFTER 25 years serving some of the most remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory, Dysart officer-in-charge Sergeant Ian Park has handed in his badge, gun and resignation letter.

Alone at his desk on a Friday night, Mr Park broke the strict cone of silence and told the true extent of internal problems crippling the Queensland Police Service, driving officers into careers and industries that pay their employees more than just lip service.

A poisonous culture change spawned from the very top levels of Queensland's brass has filtered down to the frontline where police are leaving in droves, switching to jobs that require no special skills but leave workers feeling respected and appreciated.

The Queensland Police Service no longer offers that, he said.

Two days ago, he signed off from his last shift under the badge bearing the banner, "With honour we serve", number 9991.

"I'm going because I no longer feel valued by the organisation," Mr Park said.

"I don't feel that the leadership level in regional Queensland and Brisbane is of a standard I wish to aspire to."

In 45 minutes, Mr Park described a disturbing trend depriving communities of vital services, first through a lack of resources and equipment which allow officers to patrol and police streets, stemming right down to the number of recruits entering the force.

As a former police union representative, Mr Park confirmed the mass exodus of frontline officers leaving the service for other careers, citing reasons from leadership abandonment through to "government lip service".

"There are varying reasons, but the majority of them go down to leadership, the manner in which you are treated and the manner in which you are respected," Mr Park said.

Three Central Division frontline officers have also resigned within the past few months, all from Moranbah.

"All of us have left, and none of us have left for money," Mr Park said.

Mr Park's 25-year policing career spanned two states and numerous regional postings.

He escaped the bureaucratic Internal Investigation department which he believes to be one of two burgeoning areas of the QPS, along with traffic enforcement.

Mr Park said too much time, resources and personnel were thrust into a department that "only ever comes looking for something you've done wrong".

"But it has become such a bureaucracy that it has to find someone," he said.

"I also believe it has to be in proportion to the operational side of the first-response officers, which we should put before anyone else... not in a proclamation where we've got a policy of the front line falling back to fill the gaps.

"The front line should be strong and then, if we've got enough people for you to go back and fill the other main operational areas like traffic operations and tactical response, you should go.

"That's how I look at it."

The former state government surged ahead with its increase in traffic enforcement operations in an attempt to make roads safer.

But Mr Park found, through his experience in rural communities such as Palm Island, Isisford, Bowen, Slade Point in Mackay's east and his last post of Dysart, the best method of creating safe communities was through maintaining police presence on the streets.

With just two officers, one administration clerk and one police vehicle, that's not always possible.

"If your mate is down the street on his own for an arrest and it turns ugly, they (QPS) must expect you to take your own vehicle," Mr Park said.

"We're very lucky in that we're only 70km from Middlemount, another two-officer station."

Queensland has 76 one-officer stations and a safe working model that states police are best protected when two officers make any arrests.

In towns such as Dysart where staff are often "manipulated" into working their entitled and prescribed days off - two days for every 28 - relieving officers are rare.

"If someone is away on recognised leave, not just their down days, we need an officer here," Mr Park said.

"You don't need to be manipulated into accepting the fact we will work six weeks by ourselves, which is what I just did recently.

"In Dysart, there were pretty close to six weeks where my offsider was on leave he was required to take to bring his leave balance down to an acceptable level, for some accounting reason, so I worked that period by myself."

Mr Park queried why the QPS could offer interstate recruits the pick of all Queensland postings, but was failing police academy graduates who chose to serve their communities.

"When the Queensland Police Service came to the Northern Territory to recruit, they flew to Darwin and interviewed 14 of us in 1995," he said.

"They asked us where we wanted to go, and if they didn't give me my preferred locations, I wasn't coming.

"Every single one of us knew before we came here, where we were going. We knew what location we were going to."

Dubbed re-treads, the NT recruits were placed precisely where they had requested.

"If they could do that back then, why the hell can't we have planning enough to ask them where they want to go?" he said.

"For an organisation so big, why is it that people in our academy don't know where the hell they will go?

"If they could do that all these years ago by getting people from other states, what went wrong?"

Bureaucratic proclamations and hollow declarations have stripped the front-line of the resources rural police need to effectively serve communities.

"I don't want guns hanging off me, but I would like policies developed for safety not to have a clause at the bottom, 'at the district officer's discretion'," he said.

"Or policies relating to relieving (staff) where in Dysart, we need two officers here all the time."

Borrowing a quote from the Central Region Police Union representative Bill Feldman, Mr Park said the QPS staff retention policy was appalling.

"Don't let the door hit you on the a*** on the way out," he quoted.

Mr Park finished his last shift on Wednesday and will soon take up a job as an inexperienced operator at Rio Tinto's Hail Creek mine.

Top cop thanks Dysart for making last post memorable and enjoyable

AS his final post in a 25-year career, Ian Park has spoken out and defended Dysart, the town he has called home for more than two years.

Social issues were no worse than other communities, and crime rates were significantly lower than the stigma attached to resource towns suggested, he said.

"There is domestic violence here, but that's the same everywhere and I don't think it's any greater or less," Mr Park said.

He credited the constant presence of the single police vehicle patrolling Dysart's streets for the town's low crime rate, as well as officers actively becoming a part of the community.

He said the kinship and unity once so strong and vibrant had slowly ebbed away in the past eight years, but remnants remained and a strong core was fighting to keep it alive.

"Through the mining industry's drug and alcohol testing, the community has cleaned up its act so much from what it was like when I first started coming here," he said.

"They may be going and smashing themselves up on weekends in Mackay and Rockhampton, but by the time they have come here they've gotten themselves dried out and de-toxed because they know the risks."

Now, with a new career on the horizon, backed by a proud record serving on the force, Mr Park is preparing for a lifestyle change.

He will be based in Mackay with his wife while his two daughters finish university in Toowoomba, and if given a chance, he wouldn't change the fact he was a rural copper for more than a quarter of a century.

"I am very pleased this is going to be my final posting," he said.


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