Sunshine Coast traffic cop in red light camera stoush
A SUNSHINE Coast traffic cop has had his pay docked for running two red lights while on the job and filing a misleading report about how one of the incidents occurred.
However Senior Constable Paul Rohweder may have backing from the Police Union if he looks to further a legal challenge against the decision of his superiors because both infringements involved Queensland's controversial no pursuit policy.
On March 18, 2014 Rohweder was chasing a car in Warana when he ran a red light at the intersection Wyandra Drive and the Nicklin Way. His driving triggered a red light camera and when a notice arrived, in April, Rohweder had to fill out a form explaining what happened.
When he did that he ticked a box that said he had stopped before running the red light and wrote: "After stopping at stop line, followed offending vehicle through intersection."
Later that year on September 15 Rohweder was driving along Arundell Ave in Nambour when the patrol car's automatic number plate recognition system went off.
When the suspect car did not stop and a chase began.
During that chase Rohweder ran a red light at the intersection of Mill Lane and Arundell Ave.
Importantly for the QPS, before he began the chase Rohweder did not radio back to base for information on why the car had raised the alarm and when he did it emerged it was just an unregistered vehicle.
Once this information came through the chase was called off.
Later an internal review into Rohweder's conduct, which was led by the now head of Queensland's Road Policing Command Acting Commissioner Mike Keating, ruled he should be demoted from senior constable to constable for three months.
As Rohweder has been in the QPS for 20 years and is on the top pay grade for his rank, this meant for those months he would drop from a salary of $79,114 a year to $64,135 - in practical terms a fine of about $3000.
He unsuccessfully appealed this decision to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal on April 26, this year.
During that appeal Rohweder's defence told Member Michelle Howard he had been depressed when he filled out the misleading report and the sentence did not accord with police policy because it was "a punishment, rather than protective".
"The sanction imposed goes to the purposes of achieving internal police discipline; as far as possible ensuring public safety; and maintaining public confidence in the police service that its officers will discharge their duties in a manner that has proper regard to public safety," Member Howard found in rejecting the appeal.
In 2011, in the wake of a coronial inquest into several police chase-related deaths, a new no pursuit policy was introduced across Queensland.
The policy states QPS officers can only start a car chase when they believe the driver of the offending vehicle will create an imminent threat to human life, has made threats to kill someone or committed a serious offence before they got in the car.
And even if all three of the boxes above are ticked officers are required to conduct a risk assessment.
On March 31, 2014 - days after Rohweder's first offence - Queensland Police Union QPU president Ian Leavers said the case was still in the appeal process and the union was considering the decision
He made scathing remarks about the no pursuit policy to Australian Regional Media.
"It's now so bad even senior commissioned officers who have recently returned to operational roles are saying to me that the Commissioner's no-pursuit policy is unworkable and should be scrapped, too," Mr Leavers said.
"It gives offenders a green light to take their chances and run from police as criminals know only too well that police are powerless to pursue them."
When contacted for comment in relation to Rohweder's case Mr Leavers indicated the Union had paid the cost of his appeal.
"The Queensland Police Union represented and supported the officer involved throughout this matter," Mr Leavers said.
"As we are still in the appeal period we are considering this decision and will make a decision accordingly."