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SA Police's $11m COVID-19 budget blowout

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The coronavirus pandemic has forced SA Police to spend an unbudgeted $10.9 million in the past three months while up to 550 sworn officers have been redirected from their usual policing duties to respond solely to COVID-19, Commissioner Grant Stevens says.

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Stevens told a Budget and Finance Parliamentary Committee hearing this morning that his workforce has been forced to adjust to “extraordinary events” in the past few months to ensure that people comply with the 63 COVID-19 directions issued in South Australia since March.

He said between 450 and 550 sworn officers are deployed on average everyday, along with up to 200 civilian temporary contemporary staff and Australian Defence Force personnel, and 42 members from the State Emergency Service.

Another 100 to 120 people a day undertake “significant work” to support COVID-19 operations, including support to the state control centre and resource coordination.

By the end of November, SA Police will deploy a further 28 protective security officers to support SA Police monitor medi-hotels.

“We have been required to constantly adjust our priorities, balance workforce planning and business processes to maintain our COVID-19 commitments,” he said.

“We will expand the use of non-sworn resources and protective security officers by continuing to examine those functions that genuinely need sworn authorities and those that don’t.

“It presents a unique opportunity to reconsider our policing model.”

The forced staffing changes have prompted SA Police to increase its employee costs by an estimated $3.2 million and supplies and services budget by $3.4 million during the 2019-20 financial year.

SA Police spent an unbudgeted $10.9 million related to COVID-19 activities from July to September so far this financial year.

Stevens said that SA Police was dealing with “unique and extraordinary circumstances” and the state’s Treasury was prepared to provide additional funding when requested.

“There’s no expectation that SAPOL will have to find that ($10.9 million) within our existing (budget) allocation,” he said.

Since March, Stevens, who is also the state’s emergency coordinator, has extended the state’s emergency declaration eight times and issued 63 directions – eight of which are currently active.

Police have undertaken more than 117,000 quarantine compliance checks and over 31,000 business checks, while processing more than 565,000 individual travel applications.

Currently, up to 60 police staff per day in the metropolitan area are dedicated to quarantine compliance checks, with many more engaged across country regions.

Police also monitor 22 border checkpoints and 46 border crossing points as part of the state’s hard border closure policy with Victoria.

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