Described by colleagues as “details-oriented”, the former detective had 40 years in the force before he got the top job, spending time at several inner city stations in the 1980s and 1990s before moving up the ranks.
As deputy commissioner he introduced the force’s hostile vehicle policy following the Bourke Street attack to allow officers to take direct action if they suspect a driver is about to use a car as a weapon.
‘Our members are empowered to make decisions. If you think you are doing the right thing you will be supported. My message is get on with it.’
In his interview, he delivered a message to operational police that they will be supported when they need to make decisions in the heat of the moment.
Mr Patton acknowledged that some police were reluctant to take assertive decisions because they feared being criticised during subsequent internal reviews.
“Our members are empowered to make decisions. If you think you are doing the right thing you will be supported. My message is get on with it. There are times when members put themselves at risk to protect the community. It is part of the job.”
Mr Patton said local police need to listen to their community and deal with minor offences such as burnouts and criminal damage that “annoy the hell out of people”.
Under the new drug strategy, police will continue to target syndicate heads but also move on the mid-level dealers that distribute drugs to the street.
Ice and methamphetamine derivatives will be the priority. “We need to concentrate on the drugs that create the greatest harm.”
This, he says, will be done by local police finding the drug dealers and from intelligence gathered by the Victoria Police, Australian Federal Police, Customs and Australia Post’s Icarus Taskforce that seizes drug packages sent through the post.
Police will take a hard line with offenders, remanding more into custody once arrested. “We will be driving down crime and holding offenders to account for their actions,” he said.
Experts from the crime department’s anti-gangs division will combine with local police to tackle youth gangs.
Mr Patton said police will review coronavirus work practices to see if they can be used to increase efficiencies after the pandemic is over.
These include the capacity to work remotely, staggered hours and modifying time-consuming bail reporting practices.
He said police expect a crime surge once restrictions are lifted, saying that when the last lockdown was relaxed, “we saw a snap-back straight away”.
Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt welcomed the initiative to return police to the streets.
“It’s all common sense. For too long we have been chasing our tail.”
He said senior police had been too quick to divert resources to the latest crime trend rather than driving down all crime by a sustained prevention policy.
“For years our members have been telling us that running from job to job has reduced our capacity to engage with the community. It is our job to make people feel safe and be safe. Our priority should always be to prevent crime rather than investigate it after it has happened. It is cheaper, smarter and safer.”
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John Silvester is a Walkley-award winning crime writer and columnist. A co-author of the best-selling books that formed the basis of the hit Australian TV series Underbelly, Silvester is also a regular guest on 3AW with his “Sly of the Underworld” segment.