Union boss says police are not cooks, cleaners and maids

THE Ipswich watchhouse has been labelled a potential fire hazard where frontline police officers work as cooks, cleaners and maids.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers didn't hold back when describing how officers working at the watchhouse were now required to make breakfast for prisoners and wash their dirty laundry.

But Tony Wright, assistant police commissioner for southern region, said "99.9% of the washing of blankets and prison uniforms are undertaken by the cleaner in the watchhouse".

Mr Wright said mornings at the watchhouse were hectic and that "serving of the breakfast allows us a lot more versatility to serve up Corn Flakes and juice at a time that is more suitable to the officers".

Up until a month ago the laundry work was contracted out to Queensland Corrective Services while private contractors provided breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The QT understands prisoners were complaining about their breakfasts, so the staff at the watchhouse decided Corn Flakes would be provided.

The lunches and dinners are still prepared by the private contractor.

Mr Leavers said police should not be performing menial tasks.

"It is not in the curriculum at the police academy, and it is not a pre-requisite for police to have training in hospitality," he said.

"We are not cooks, cleaners or maids.

"It is unacceptable, and it is a workplace healthy and safety issue because we are talking about soiled prisoners clothing with faeces, urine, semen and vomit on them.

"They used to go to industrial cleaners to be cleaned properly, and that is how it should occur.

"Queensland Corrective Services have the industrial washing machines and are set up for it. It is not the role of police.

"I will be getting our workplace health and safety officer to inspect the laundry at the watchhouse because I believe there are issues with that. It could be a fire risk. God forbid that (a fire) should ever happen because lives will be lost."

The watchhouse is staffed by police officers and civilian watchhouse personnel.

Mr Wright said police rarely did laundry duties.

"But there is an industrial washing machine and dryer, and if they are handling any goods that are soiled they are using the appropriate protective equipment," he said.

He said "police officers and their families have been cooking meals and serving meals to prisoners in watchhouses all over the state for the last 150 years" and that even when all three meals were catered for, Ipswich police still had a role in serving them.

"They come to the front door of the police station, and it is the police officers or civilian watchhouse keepers who have got to provide that meal from the front door to the individual. That is a security issue," he said.

Mr Leavers said senior management needed to ask for more funds so that resourcing levels were appropriate.

Mr Wright said "everyone would like more money" but added that funds were "finite" and that it was incumbent on any manager using public money to "get the most bang for our buck".

He said the issue of whether police, trained to work on the front line, should be working in watchhouses at all was a valid one and had been the subject of certain recommendations by the Keelty Review to the government.

Topics:  editors picks ian leavers policing queensland corrective services queensland police union

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