Opinion: It’s the ‘dirty little secret’ of the bikie-busting Taskforce Maxima that is now facing a ‘dire state of affairs’, writes Des Houghton.
Opinion: It’s the ‘dirty little secret’ of the bikie-busting Taskforce Maxima that is now facing a ‘dire state of affairs’, writes Des Houghton.

‘Dirty little secret’ of bikie squad

OPINION

THE inadequate staffing of crime-busting Taskforce Maxima is known inside Queensland police as a "dirty little secret".

So says Shane Prior, and he should know.

He works inside the State Crime Command at police HQ as a detective senior constable, in the same Brisbane building as Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.

Prior's chief complaint is that 80 per cent of Taskforce Maxima cops are on temporary secondment from regional stations, and have been for years.

The taskforce has also suffered because a third of its more seasoned officers have been transferred to fill gaps elsewhere. It's all part of a belt-tightening exercise by an incompetent government.

You don't have to be a genius to conclude the lack of job permanency upsets the stability of one of our most essential crime-fighting squads. And any juniorisation of staff is just as troubling. Imagining how much more successful the squad could be with a bit more steel in its spine.

Queensland police headquarters in Roma St, Brisbane
Queensland police headquarters in Roma St, Brisbane

Taskforce Maxima came into existence in October 2013 with a pledge by then premier Campbell Newman to eliminate violence, intimidation, drug pushing and other crimes committed by outlaw bikie gangs.

Maxima had its genesis in Taskforce Hydra, established by the Beattie government in 2006.

I'm told that since the Newman days Taskforce Maxima has arrested more than 3500 people on more than 10,000 charges, and seized about $20 million in cash and assets.

It has taken tens of millions of dollars' worth of drugs from the streets.

We must congratulate all the men and women involved in Maxima.

Their efforts have also led to the confiscation of about 400 weapons, enough to equip a revolutionary army.

They include rifles and handguns, explosives, knuckle dusters, hunting knives and nunchucks. A submachine gun was seized in a meth lab raid.

More than 170 bikies are behind bars despite the Labor government going soft on bikies by watering down Campbell Newman's VLAD laws that forced the cowardly thugs to flee interstate.

Parliament heard there were 789 "patched" bikie gang members in 2015.

Worryingly, there are still 650 today, so any attempts to weaken or downgrade the taskforce are lunacy.

Taskforce Maxima is now led by Detective Superintendent Roger Lowe.
Taskforce Maxima is now led by Detective Superintendent Roger Lowe.

These days Taskforce Maxima works inside the Organised Crime Gangs Group under the command of Detective Superintendent Roger Lowe.

The State Government says there have been few reductions in resources directed to Taskforce Maxima.

"It's a lie, it's a dirty little secret," Prior said.

He said the failure to adequately staff Taskforce Maxima was part of a "giant hoax" paid on the Queensland public.

"The situation at Taskforce Maxima is becoming a dire state of affairs."

The Lone Wolves have been linked to the murder of Shane Ross and Cameron Martin.
The Lone Wolves have been linked to the murder of Shane Ross and Cameron Martin.

Working police like Prior are usually prohibited from speaking out about internal matters.

However, as a Queensland Police Union delegate, he is afforded legal protections and can air his views on behalf of members.

Prior has the support of Ian Leavers, the influential president and chief executive of the Queensland Police Union. He said Queensland was the only state in which its elite anti-bikie squad was staffed by temporary and inexperienced officers.

Old hands at Taskforce Maxima have to spend a lot of time showing the raw recruits the ropes.

 

Then police minister Jack Dempsey, premier Campbell Newman and commissioner Ian Stewart discuss the rise in bikie violence in October 2013.
Then police minister Jack Dempsey, premier Campbell Newman and commissioner Ian Stewart discuss the rise in bikie violence in October 2013.

 

Here I should stress that QPU is apolitical. It seems to me to be suspicious of both major parties.

Leavers raises another embarrassing problem for the current State Government. While police are on secondment at the taskforce, they are nor replaced at the regional stations from where they are drawn. So rural regions are being robbed of the police protection they deserve.

The secondments were necessary in 2013 quickly ramp up the squad.

"However they remain in place seven years later," Prior said.

"The Queensland Police Service has attempted to secure these positions as permanents but (our) representations have gone unheard.

"The Government stands condemned. Their apathy and lies by omission to the Queensland community has to be revealed and stopped."

He said major parties were always "crowing" about who has the toughest law-and-order policies. They were paying lip service to the community.

"The very real feeling of our members is that the Queensland Police Service has lost its way."

Des Houghton is a media consultant and a former editor of The Courier-Mail and The Sunday Mail



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