The Queensland Police Service has been charged with breaching workplace health and safety (WH&S) laws for the first time, after 26 officers were injured using road spikes while on the job.
The ABC understands the prosecution was initiated after a complaint was lodged by the Queensland Police Union with the WH&S Department after an incident in 2018 when Peter McAulay was struck by a sedan and dragged several metres while laying tyre deflation devices in Ipswich.
He sustained critical head injuries, broken bones, displacement of the brain, spinal injuries and a dislocated knee, and had to be placed in an induced coma for several days.
The 17-year-old boy who was driving the car pleaded guilty to four charges and was sentenced to three years’ jail in 2019.
In February, WH&S prosecutors charged the “Commissioner of Police” — who is responsible for the administration management and functioning of the service — with two counts of failure to comply with health and safety duty category 2.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of $1,500,000 each.
Ian Stewart took over the position of Queensland police commissioner from Bob Atkinson in November 2012, while Katarina Carroll was appointed to the position in July 2019.
WH&S alleged that between January 2012 and June 2019, the Commissioner of Police knew the deployment of the tyre deflation system was a hazard and a lack of “adequate training” had put police officers and the public at risk of being injured or killed by a car.
Officers injured using spikes
Court documents revealed police officers were initially given training to use the spikes at their recruitment stage, but the manufacturer’s training manuals said it was “essential” that field practice should be carried out every six months.
The documents stated “some officers” received further training in 2013 or 2014, but no other uniform or service-wide training was provided.
During initial training, police officers were told to assess the suitability of proposed sites to lay the spikes, and to only deploy them in places where there was suitable cover, the court documents said.
Officers were also directed to refrain from deploying the devices if “personal or public safety” was compromised.
The documents also stated that police officers had failed to comply with those directions between 2012 and 2019.
Between those dates, 26 police officers who were using the spikes had been injured, some seriously, the court documents stated.
In addition to failing to provide practical refresher training, WH&S have also alleged the Commissioner of Police failed to implement other control measures to “minimise or eliminate risks”, including monitoring and ensuring compliance.
The Commissioner of Police also allegedly failed to review the adequacy of training after each of the 26 incidents where a police officer was hurt while using the spikes.
QPS says it takes training ‘extremely seriously’
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Queensland Police Service (QPS) said it could not comment on the charges, but it takes the safety and wellbeing of its police officers “extremely seriously”.
“[QPS] works continuously to provide quality training which ensures staff can fulfil their duties to a high standard,” the statement said.
The matter is set to return to the Brisbane Magistrates Court in two months.