Vic police rebuked over $2b staff program

A watchdog has taken Victoria Police to task for not doing sufficient groundwork to justify the hiring of 2700 extra officers as part of a $2 billion funding boost.

The Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) has found the force didn’t have a full business case in 2016 when the Andrews government announced the additional funding over four years from 2017/18.

It was only supported by a short-form business case that didn’t have enough detail for decision-makers to rationalise “such a large investment”.

“Victoria Police cannot show that the 2729 new police officers it said it needed were supported by any modelling of its future staffing requirements,” the Auditor-General wrote in a report tabled in state parliament on Thursday.

The $2 billion package was for the Community Safety Statement program, but VAGO found Victoria Police couldn’t assure itself the initiative delivered community safety outcomes.

“Victoria Police has not since attempted to assess the incremental benefits realised from the investment,” the state’s public sector financial watchdog said.

Further, Victoria Police’s staffing needs remain unclear because it does not have a strategic workforce plan nor any modelling or forecasting for current or long-term requirements.

“Without knowing its future staffing needs, Victoria Police continues to rely on what it receives from the government, rather than providing evidence-based advice,” VAGO said.

It made six recommendations, including developing a long-term strategic workforce plan and a benefits realisation plan that reports return on investment and contains key performance indicators.

Victoria Police was also encouraged to revisit a 2019 external review that suggested it assess other ways to distribute resources within its Staff Allocation Model (SAM) algorithm, after ignoring the advice over fears that it would be “too difficult to explain” internally.

First commissioned by the force in November 2016, SAM is a mathematical model that draws on statistical inputs to effectively allocate government-funded resources.

In his response to the VAGO report, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said it doesn’t accommodate the changing environment of policing, and can be altered based on his professional judgment.

“It is an ongoing challenge to assign resources in a manner that is effective, sustainable and fair across all facets of an organisation that is constantly evolving in its ability to respond to ever-changing needs and demands,” he wrote.

Victoria Police has accepted all six recommendations in full or in principle, but Mr Patton warned some may have resourcing and financial implications.

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