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SAPOL bracing for end of Holden era

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SA Police are in a race against time to source a new patrol vehicle, with the domestic car industry winding down operations over the next two years.

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SAPOL has been sourcing locally-built SV6 Commodore sedans, but has been forced to look further afield with General Motors Holden to cease production in Adelaide from the end of 2017.

But the search is complicated by the impending closure of Ford’s Geelong operation, as Police Commissioner Grant Stevens told a Budget and Finance Committee hearing this morning.

“All the locally-based vehicle manufacturers are ceasing production at the same time,” he said.

“It’s the first time ever we’ve been essentially forced to look elsewhere for what might meet our operational requirements… we’re moving away from locally built vehicles.”

And they have a looming deadline to do so.

“We do need time to commission the vehicles, so we certainly have to make a decision before the supply of the current patrol car… ceases production at the end of 2017,” Stevens said.

However, he said an order would have to be in place 12 months before production wound down, giving SAPOL until the end of this year to source its next fleet.

“We’re obviously moving reasonably quickly,” he said, adding police would examine difference purchasing arrangements than the traditional leasing arrangements with the Government.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all [approach],” he said.

He agreed the intent was to reduce costs, with SAPOL – along with other State Government agencies – charged with finding budget savings.

But Stevens baulked at last week’s suggestion by Liberal backbencher Vincent Tarzia of scrapping the Police band – a notion quickly dismissed by Tarzia’s own colleagues.

Stevens gave the committee an impassioned defence of the $3.2 million a year band and the parade-leading horses, the “Police Greys”.

“There’s a perception that the police Greys are simply ceremonial,” he said.

“That is erroneous; they are operational police officers.”

He said the horses were an “extremely effective resource” for policing certain sectors of the community and “the days are gone when they’re simply there for tent pegging and ceremonial activities”.

On the police band, he said: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable or exaggeration to say they’re an icon [that] continues to enhance the reputation of SAPOL in the broader community.”

Stevens said he was not aware if instances of police accessing private information were made public, after Health Minister Jack Snelling on Saturday pledged to report any breaches in his department every three months following reports health insiders had accessed case records of Cy Walsh, who is charged with killing his father, former Crows coach Phil Walsh.

Stevens said “clearly there have been occasions in the past where there’s been unauthorized access to criminal and traffic records”, but said he didn’t have a view on whether such breaches should be publicized.

“I haven’t formed a position on that at this point in time,” he said.

“On the face of it, I don’t see an issue but I need to give it further consideration.”

He agreed there would be a “reasonably significant number” of breaches – “you’d be talking tens each year” – with the nature of the infractions ranging from an individual verifying their own registration “right up to more serious matters where police officers are accessing private information for their own benefit”.

Stevens said he was aware of a case in around 2005/06 where “several officers accessed information on a high-profile member of the community who was involved in an incident”.

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