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Queensland’s Fashion Police?

19 July, 2009

It is interesting and perhaps a little bit scary to imagine what sort of person wants to become a police officer. Those individuals who are attracted to policing must at times expect to endure traumatic experiences, even physical injury or death, as they carry out their duties. Surely they must also anticipate some kind of job satisfaction. This satisfaction could be a result of solving crime, protecting those in society who are most vulnerable, or for whatever other reason. If this was not so, the police force would be filled with individuals looking to exploit their power base as enforcers.

As a community we either call on the police (or don’t) when we are in need of assistance or try and evade their detection if we are in breach of the law that is their job to enforce. When we encounter police we have all come across different personalities or styles of policing – from the ones who are polite and reasonable to the disrespectful, unreasonable and power tripping. The police force does not have the monopoly on people who enjoy wielding power as most of us would have come across such people in any place of employment. The difference in dealing with a police officer is the far reaching consequences that could occur.

Whatever ‘type’ of police officer that one encounters, all possess a powerful tool that they can exercise. It is not the gun, cuffs, capsicum spray or taser, it is discretion.

Through the power of discretion even a junior officer has authority to charge an offender, decide whether to take an offender into custody or not. When in contact with police it is worth being aware of this fact whether the matter being investigated is trivial or of a more serious nature. If the matter is a serious offence the use of discretion may carry life changing consequences. However, even when the matter is less so it is worth keeping this in mind.

A Brisbane taxi driver has recently had such an experience, one could infer. The Courier Mail has recently reported that a taxi driver has been fined $100 for not having his socks pulled up. While this may seem ridiculous the Transport Operations (Passenger Transport) Regulations 2005 in section 131 provides:

The driver of a public passenger vehicle must, while driving the vehicle, be neatly dressed.

Maximum penalty–10 penalty units.

The driver in question plans on fighting the charge. If this case is reported it will be interesting to hear the interpretation of ‘neatly dressed’. This incident demonstrates that any contact with police should be thoughtful and perhaps respectful or you may become a victim of what in this case the Cab Drivers’ Association of Queensland Secretary is calling and “an intimidation just to get even” and “an abuse of power”.

 

 Update. The Queensland Police will consider whether to withdraw the fine once all the circumstances are known. It seems that the driver and the officer were arguing over a seatbelt issue before the police officer used his discretion and fined the driver for not ‘dressing neatly’.

Update II. Following a review Queensland Police have waived the infringement notice as they considered it to be in the ‘public interest’.

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