. Picture: Shae Beplate.
. Picture: Shae Beplate.

Time to bail: Premier, minister split on cop ‘babysitting’ policy

PRESSURE is mounting on the State Government to scrap a controversial policy seeing police "babysitting" young offenders on bail.

The Townsville Bulletin exclusively revealed police officers and police liaison officers had been offered "abundant overtime" to take charged youth, released on bail, to sporting events and recreational activities.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Police Minister Mark Ryan yesterday appeared split on the concept.

Burdekin MP Dale Last, who served as a police officer for 25 years, yesterday slammed the program, saying it should be completely scrapped.

"At the end of the day it shouldn't be the role of police officers to be babysitting these juvenile offenders," Mr Last said.

"I never saw anything like this in my time as a police officer … theoretically you could end up in a situation where a police officer is arresting one of these offenders today and tomorrow they have to take them fishing.

"They shouldn't be placed in that position and its making a mockery of the justice system."

Ms Palaszczuk said she would prefer youth workers to be doing such tasks rather than police but the Police Minister is sticking by the program.

"I think it's more appropriate that if it involves like sporting events or cultural events that's probably more appropriate for youth workers to be doing that," Ms Palaszczuk said.

Mr Ryan defended the program, stating it was centrally funded and didn't remove any police officers from the front line.

He stood by the concept of having police officers escort children on bail to recreational activities but said police liaison officers and youth workers may also accompany the kids.

"We know that if you can get kids involved in organised activity, if you can provide appropriate supervision … that not only can we stop them committing crime but you can also help them lead a life free from crime for the rest of their lives," Mr Ryan said.

"This is certainly not taking them to the Cowboys but it's about taking them to organised sporting activity and other activity so engaging them in organised activity provides a positive experience for these young people."

"It's for a police officer who wants to engage in that activity to support a better outcome for that young person."

Mr Last said the Premier and Police Minister were "contradicting each other".

Ms Palaszczuk said she was not familiar with the initiative, labelled Operation Regenerate, and would be looking further into it.

Part of the program the Premier firmly agrees with is police conducting home visits, checking in on youth on bail to ensure they are abiding by their bail conditions.

"This is a program where money has been allocated to break the cycle of crime it's important that police have the opportunity to go and check that the young people are at home if they are supposed to be at home," she said.

Police sources have told the Bulletin the reaction from most front line officers has been to turn their nose up at the proposal but Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers supports the operation.

"The Queensland Police Union executive was recently briefed by the experienced police detectives running this project who are also members of the QPU and have been assured this will not affect regular policing as it is being undertaken by police on overtime and the funding is not coming from the Police budget but from another government department's budget," Mr Leavers said.

"As a result, the QPU executive supports the project.

"The QPU understands police have modelled this project on successful ones in other jurisdictions and we support any new approaches and avenues to deal with juvenile crime."

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