Are cops at bottle shops just bluffing?


p2309-police-bottle-shop-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
Why should the taxpayer be paying for cops at bottle shops and why is it just a police problem?
The scheme now called  POSI or Point of Sale Intervention is lowering crime, but is it relying more on bluff than on solid legal grounds?
These questions are being raised by Paul McCue, president of the NT Police Association.
He says the onus of checking IDs could be put on the liquor licensees, as well as not selling grog to people residing in areas where drinking is banned. Failure to comply could be punished with licence suspensions, at least temporary.
Whilst police work under the direction of the Commissioner of Police, the Police Association has previously questioned the legalities of operating Temporary Beat Locations (TBLs), as the scheme was called before.
p2309-Paul-McCueSays Mr McCue (pictured at left): “What if someone says, no, I’m not going to show you my licence?
“Does that then oblige the liquor merchant to refuse a sale?”
Possession of liquor is of course legal in areas where its drinking is prohibited (or else you wouldn’t be able to drive home from the bottlo with a six-pack in your car).
He says the current system diverts scarce manpower from core police operations. The effects are also being felt in remote areas reliant on Alice Springs police to relieve staff.
“There have been cases of extreme amounts of overtime reported in some bush stations, including in one instance up to 30 hours extra per week,” says Mr McCue.
“Law enforcement officers consider their duties at bottle shops as demeaning and unsafe with officers expected to work alone,” he says.
They are usually without a partner at the liquor outlets, and although there have not been serious incidents so far, they are likely to happen with people angry about not getting served.
Mr McCue says the CLP is in clear breach of its 2012 election commitment to increase police numbers by 120, including 20 earmarked for Alice Springs.
The attrition rate has been up to about 10% in the past and works against the number of officers being recruited to Alice Springs.
p2309-police-statsThere was a drop from 1406 full time equivalent police reported in the 2013-2014 annual report, compared to  1398 in the 2014/15 year.
Many of the new cops have been recruited under the Accelerated Recruitment Program – essentially pirating trained or partly trained officers from interstate or New Zealand.
Mr McCue says the per-capita police numbers are usually over-estimated, and given the enormous crime rate in the NT and vast geographical area that police cover, are still far too low, especially in the rural areas.
The NT has one “full time equivalent” police officer per 174 people, compared to 280 in South Australia.
GRAPH: Numbers of police officers in the NT from police annual reports.


  1. I think nearly everyone in our community would recognise the hardship endured by our police in maintaining the POSI but the rewards have been enormous.
    There must not be any backing down on this crime prevention strategy.
    POSI has been more effective than any other form of policing we have tried. I realize that it’s not a very exciting job for a young police person, not quite as sexy as driving the pursuit car, but it’s a whole lot more effective.
    We must keep very clearly in mind, he POSI works because “it is police” who are carrying out the role!
    Bottle shops asking for licences would be completely ineffective. At Ccouncil we know within a matter of hours when one of these beats is not being maintained, drunks start appearing on our streets and the complaints start coming in.
    Territorians have seen the great outcomes from the bottle shop presence and have lobbied government heavily to fund using their tax dollar in this very effective protection of our communities. We know it’s hard, we love our police for it, but we have an expectation that POSI will be part of policing duties until such time as the community learns to behave acceptably without their presence.
    Young police should learn to see the duty as a rite of passage into NT policing.
    The NT Police Union should put its efforts into showing recruits how the job can be used as a rewarding community interaction rather than wasting resources railing against the wishes of the communities they are sworn to both serve and protect.

  2. Well said, Steve Brown.
    This is actually positive policing; putting our officers in to the community, teaching our police force how to communicate with the general public, becoming the reality of the “friendly policeman” our parents taught us about and actually nipping the drunken crime in the bud instead of responding after the event.
    Added bonus: I can actually go shopping with the kids without having to explain drunken behaviour.

  3. I have the following questions for Steve Brown:
    1. Have you considered it may not be taxpayers’ dollars but money from the Aboriginal Benefits Accounts in Canberra that funds NT Police to place officers at POSI spots? Just ask your Federal rep, you will be surprised.
    2. Have you considered young recruits are not the only staff being deployed to this duty but long term members who have no choice due limited numbers of new recruits available?
    3. It is difficult enough to attract new police without discouraging this career choice by forcing members to act as pseudo liquor licencing officers.
    4. The rite of passage is graduating at police college like their Darwin colleagues who don’t stand outside bottle shops.
    5. What are we saying to future generations and NT visitors when alcohol is such a disease in our local society that police presence is required to attend a local business. Hey, lets have a cop every time I buy my bread and milk ask me for ID.

  4. @ K George: There are certain tasks the community requires a hired on police person to carry out. Many of these tasks are very onerous. While your community understands that fact, we nonetheless require those tasks performed until such time as it is judged unnecessary by that community.
    I suggest a good exercise would be for you to weigh your questions against the words “To Serve and Protect” – these words apply no matter your seniority!

  5. So let’s explore this a bit: Cops to go from in front of the take-aways, and the retailers to do the checking?
    Now if they, the retailers, don’t card everyone, there will immediately be allegations of discrimination, or racial profiling.
    So to keep themselves safe, won’t they just card everyone and run the names through a database of listed problem drinkers? Something like a Banned Drinkers Register?
    Back to the Future, and on a related note also concerning what the Giles government says and what it does, for twenty years I have insured my home with TIO.
    TIO was sold with an assurance that flood cover would remain and prices would only adjust a little bit. Imagine my surprise when I received a notice today saying my insurance was going up by about 400%!

  6. Often you see a cop and a security guard outside the bottlo, both looking bored stupid. Why can’t the seller check the IDs with the security guard for back up. And why no checks in Darwin?


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