VICTORIA, THE Garden State, is hunting for a new top cop, and since the previous recumbents have each left something to be desired, this would seem the moment for Premier Ted Baillieu to be very wary of planting another vegetable behind the chief commissioner’s desk. That’s the worry, of course, as any pal and protégé of Petro Georgiou can never quite be trusted to demonstrate a true, rock-ribbed approach to law and order. That Big Ted might saddle the state with yet another camera-friendly dud is quite a worry.
The former Brumby/Bracks regime saw policing as a matter of posture and pretense, with official policy reflecting an aversion to anything quite so messy as protecting property and public safety. When assaults increased, Victorians got more speed cameras. As rape surged, more speed cameras. Ethnic gangs blossomed, even more speed cameras – as well as many Police Academy photo ops with pygmies and gargantuas graduating in their turbans, dashikis, righteous beards, yarmulkes or grass skirts. One consequence of assigning policing to publicists has lately been evident in the suburbs along Sydney Road, where enthusiastic members of the Criminal-Australian community have been re-staging family feuds from far-off lands. Since ethnic gangs do not exist, as ex-Commissioner Christine Nixon repeatedly insisted, there was never the need to do anything about them. Her equally unlamented successor, Simon Overland, might have reversed that view, except that he was rather too busy arranging for eavesdroppers to monitor the phones of rivals, parliamentary aides, ministers and their families.
If Baillieu wishes to be re-elected his pick will need to be rather more than a poster child for the latest fashionable theory in social engineering and tokenism. Victoria has endured one commissioner whose chief qualification was a uterus and another who proved too fond by half of playing at palace politics. Now, maybe, if Petro is not whispering too much multi-culti nonsense in our Premier’s warm and fuzzy ear, we could actually get a proper commissioner.
If Big Ted needed a moment to contemplate the qualities that make for a good cop, the perfect time and place would have been yesterday morning on the Monash Freeway. Shortly before 6 o’clock, a poor unfortunate took a stroll along one of Melbourne’s most-used strips of bitumen. He was sent to meet his Maker by a passing truck – and the debacle that followed is something Baillieu really needs to consider.
How long does it take to wipe a corpse off a roadway? An hour, you might figure, perhaps two if the odd finger or nose has vanished down a drain. Yesterday it took six interminable hours to scrape one body off a tiny patch of road. Tens of thousands of drivers sat … and sat … and then sat some more. Businesses did not open, workers did not arrive and deliveries throughout this city were delayed while the investigating officers measured distances, took pictures and jotted sat-nav reckonings. There was a blue helicopter hovering overhead and a festive season’s worth of bright lights flashing without pause as police observed all the authorised protocols. Meanwhile, Melbourne went nowhere.
When the short list of chief commissioner candidates is passed around Spring Street, let us hope someone has the wit to realise policing is about results, not just procedures. The next top cop could even have a bone through his nose, which Petro would appreciate, if only the rest of us could be certain he understands that he and his force are there to make life both safer and more certain for the public they claim to serve. That has not happened in Melbourne for quite some time.