Man of action Simon Overland
March 03, 2009 12:00am
ANYONE who thinks police can win a war against drugs is crazy, Victoria's new police chief Simon Overland said.
"We're never going to eradicate it, and I think to pretend otherwise is just silly," Mr Overland told the Herald Sun.
"It's not about a war, it's actually about appropriate controls and how we genuinely put in place policies that lead to the least harm to people using illicit drugs and least harm to the community."
Mr Overland said drugs would continue to be a major priority for the force under his leadership, which begins officially today.
"I'm not saying there's not more for us to do. There is and it's an enormous challenge," he said. But the drug that concerned him most was alcohol.
"Alcohol is a factor in public safety, it's a factor in the road toll, it's a factor in family violence and sexual assaults," he said. "I think we need as a community to come to a position that says being drunk in public is not OK.
"I'm not a wowser. I understand people want to drink and have a good time and that's OK. But if drinking becomes a problem for the individual or the community, that's not OK."
Chief Commissioner Overland, 46, said the biggest challenges facing the force included public safety, the road toll and tough economic times.
"We know that in hard times the crime rate tends to go up, and it could also lead to increases in family violence and sexual assaults," he said.
Mr Overland, who has two degrees, has been identified as a high-flyer since he was Australian Federal Police recruit of the year in 1984.
Raised in Canberra, the former keen footballer and cricketer now describes himself as "a boring middle-aged man who likes surfing".
Mr Overland has a five-year contract. He was told he had the chief commissioner's job late last Friday.
He is an advocate of what he describes as "soft power" - the use of influence and persuasion rather than force.
"The hard-soft debate that goes on is an exercise in futility in my view," he said.
"The better question is what's the most appropriate response. It's about using both, and knowing when to use both and using them appropriately."
He said violent street protests like the G20 demonstration would be policed differently under his leadership.
"For that hard core that were committed to causing trouble, we should have dealt with them in the strongest possible terms within the law, and that's absolutely what I would try to do," he said.
There was a growing disparity between rights and responsibilities and "a tendency to want to make the government or the police responsible for everything".
"We have a responsibility, and I don't walk away from that, but the rest of the community, and individuals, have a responsibility as well."
Mr Overland said he was worried about people becoming desensitised to violence and said some computer games and media played a role.
"Some of the computer games are incredibly violent and broader representations of violence in the media can be problematic," he said. "I think that's why we see some of the behaviour on the streets."
Mr Overland is known as a private person, but says he and his wife Barbara know he will now be more public property.
"I'm not a celebrity, I'm a cop, but we understand the public side of the role," he said.
Mr Overland said his philosophy and approach would be very similar to his predecessor Christine Nixon's, but his style would be different.
"I'm obviously not Christine, I'm a very different person but I'm committed to the same of things, like being open and accessible, working with the community and supporting our staff," he said.
Until Next Time