POLICE have thrown their full support behind 000-operator Senior Constable Jason Wheeler.
A 000-call between Snr Const. Wheeler and flood victim Donna Rice was played during the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday.
Snr Const. Wheeler berated Ms Rice for driving into floodwaters at the intersection of James and Kitchener sts and when she requested a tow truck he abruptly told her: “you can ring a tow truck”.
Ms Rice and her 13-year-old son Jordan later died in floodwaters.
Ms Rice’s partner John Tyson told the inquiry that he believed the pair could still been alive today if Snr Const. Wheeler had not dismissed the panicked 000-call.
Police Union president Ian Leavers, however, yesterday said he fully supported the actions of Snr Const. Wheeler.
“I have repeatedly said that under-resourcing and understaffing of the police service by government is really affecting how police can do their job,” Mr Leavers said.
“The officer involved in this incident only had a two-day training course and the call centre received over 1000 calls in one hour for only a few people to answer.
“The call centre in Brisbane is brand new, but as soon as you go past Caboolture to the North, Logan to the south, and Goodna to the west, the police call centres are third-world standard.
“There is no way a regional call centre could ever handle 1000 calls an hour and this places amazing pressure on those working in one.
“The union is providing support to all officers involved in the flood inquiry and we are all 100 per cent behind them and the great effort they performed during this natural disaster.”
Snr Const. Wheeler has been an officer for 19 years, but had only been in the call centre for three weeks before the January 10 disaster.
During evidence he gave in the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday, communications centre supervisor Sergeant Robin Coleman explained that the events of that day had affected him and his staff personally.
Sgt Coleman told the court how he’d seen a psychiatrist to help deal with the emotional trauma.
The officer, who has 37 years experience with the Queensland Police Service, said he had been diagnosed with a condition called “reactive stress” and suffered from memory loss.
Snr Const. Wheeler said he also had large gaps in his memory from that day.
A police spokeswoman said the circumstances surrounding the 000 phone call were the subject of an internal investigation.
“(The investigation) was commenced as soon as the matter was raised through internal reporting processes,” she said.
“The internal investigation is ongoing and will consider the outcome of formal inquiries by the Coroner and the floods commission.
“Unfortunately we are not in a position to discuss this issue further at this time.”
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