Cops COVID crisis: Hotel duty ‘killing us’

Fed-up police claim staffing Gold Coast quarantine hotels is such a drain on ranks it is slashing street patrols and causing incident response time blowouts.

One officer sensationally suggested quarantine duty was impacting police presence in entertainment precincts like Surfers Paradise so much that under normal staffing Wednesday night's fatal stabbing of Raymond Harris, 27, might have been avoided.

The officer, citing the father of four's death in the tourism hub about 9pm said: "Would that have been prevented if we had people walking the street? Possibly."

The Gold Coast is home to three coronavirus quarantine hotels for returning internationals - the Voco, QT Gold Coast and Crowne Plaza - and a fourth is being added soon.

It is claimed each hotel requires about four police at a time and filling the shifts - during which sources claim officers largely sit around making sure no one leaves - is putting significant pressure on the thin blue line.

Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler at the Queensland border with NSW. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steve Holland
Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler at the Queensland border with NSW. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Steve Holland

 

"If the public knew. F---, they would blow up," an officer said. "I have never been to so many jobs lately where people have bitched about why we could not get there quicker."

Serving police claim:

- Multiple teams of two for patrolling entertainment precinct streets during night shifts had been unavailable as per usual and sometimes the only presence was a two-person team in a patrol car;

- Police on hotel shifts had been told quarantine duties must take "precedence" over attending "incident" call-outs;

- Police, who can't leave a station unmanned, have been unable to attend nearby incidents because they have been the only officers at a station;

- There have been occasions a fight or incident has broken out close by and police had sat in frustration watching it on CCTV in the station. An officer said crews further away had to be called.

"Duty at quarantine hotels is the priority job over our actual job. The hotels are killing us," an officer said.

Raymond Harris, 27, died from a stab wound on Wednesday night. Photo: Supplied
Raymond Harris, 27, died from a stab wound on Wednesday night. Photo: Supplied

According to eyewitnesses, there were plenty of police at Surfers Paradise station the night Mr Harris was killed. A venue bouncer said he had never seen so many: "Pretty much everyone in Surfers Paradise police station ran off down the road, would have been 10 plus, 15 plus police."

Gold Coast police Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said Surfers had "significant resources rostered" that night, which resulted in the "immediate" response, area lockdown within minutes and location of two alleged offenders within 20 minutes.

Police in Surfers Paradise after a 27-year-old Beenleigh man was stabbed.
Police in Surfers Paradise after a 27-year-old Beenleigh man was stabbed.

He confirmed hotel quarantine was a "priority" and said a fourth hotel would be added to cater for Queensland's cap on international arrivals jumping from 500 a week to 1000.

Chief Supt Wheeler admitted due to the hotel duty balancing act there "will absolutely be some shifts where there are less police rostered": "But if someone's trying to draw an analogy that Wednesday night happened because we have hotel quarantine programs in place its absolutely nonsense."

He would not reveal exact police numbers at hotels but "we are certainly balancing our business-as-usual requirements with our COVID-19 response. This is an issue confronting the whole state and probably most government departments.

Members of the Australian Defence Force at the Voco Hotel, which his being used for quarantine. Picture Glenn Hampson.
Members of the Australian Defence Force at the Voco Hotel, which his being used for quarantine. Picture Glenn Hampson.

"I do understand the frustration of younger operational staff. They would prefer to be out on the beat doing their normal job, but this is incredibly important. If we don't get this right we could end up like Victoria."

Hotel police could, depending on the circumstances, be deployed to incident call-outs in the "immediate vicinity" but "the priority remains, and the priority will always remain the security of those quarantine hotels. If we simply all walk away from a hotel and just hope that everyone remains where they should be, we potentially have a Victoria outbreak."

Originally published as Cops COVID crisis: Hotel duty 'killing us'


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