Exemptions for police absolutely necessary

I write in response to the article “Phone use has city talking – Police officer spotted on mobile while driving”, published in The Courier, August 24 2012.
Nanjing Night Net

While I acknowledge that your reporter and members of the public are entitled to express their respective views concerning the photograph published on a Facebook site, which depicts a member of Victoria Police appearing to be holding a mobile telephone while driving a police divisional van in the Ballarat area, it is clear that current legislation exempts members of Victoria Police to breach certain rules under Road Rule 305(1), which I note you included in the story.

To make this situation clear to members of the community, I provide the following response.

The legislated exemptions allowing police to breach certain road rules are absolutely necessary. To remove these exemptions would handicap police in critical or like situations, placing members of the community at harm.

Police operational response is not always communicated via radio and there are occasions where it is necessary to communicate matters via telephone – talking with a distressed victim of crime or a member of the public who may be following a dangerous and erratic driver are just two frequently occurring situations.

Police members are required to act within the criteria for the exemption and must always exercise reasonable care in accordance with the circumstances. Victoria Police will investigate if the exemption was lawfully exercised on such an occasion. In regard to this incident I have not received any complaint alleging the police officer photographed was not acting in accordance with the provisions of Road Rule 305(1).

The debate concerning whether police should be allowed to use a mobile phone while driving is an entirely different matter. The fact is that current legislation permits this to occur.

ANDREW P. ALLEN

Superintendent Divisional Commander, Ballarat Western Region

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