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Spinning Furiously

Just as I had finished blogging about the NSW Police Spin Machine - it was swinging into insidious action yet again.


A matter of days after Commissioner Scipione was accused in a parliament estimates hearing of "playing down" the number of officers charged with drink-driving, his media unit was clearly coy on the arrest of a cop over an alleged armed robbery attempt in Sydney's west.


This is how Yahoo 7News reported the disturbing events.


The report - which got straight to the point - was posted shortly after 3pm. Almost an hour and a half later the official NSW Police Force Media Release finally confirmed the arrest - but somehow the entire release neglected to mention the word "police."


This is how it went (The weasel words - aimed at avoiding negative Google search results no doubt - are in bold):


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Latest Media Releases


Three arrested as part of targeted operation - Cabramatta


Monday, 01 September 2014 04:22:07 PM


Three people have been arrested following a targeted operation by the Professional Standards Command and the South West Metropolitan Region in Cabramatta this morning.


A suspended officer is one of the three arrested following a robbery in John Street


The robbery did not involve firearms.


A victim received minor injuries and was treated at the scene.


No charges have been laid and the operation is ongoing. It is not appropriate to make any further comment at this time.


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Compare that release's information to the much greater detail provided below by the police media unit for a relatively unspectacular arrest on the NSW Central Coast:


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Latest Media Releases


Police charge a man after shot allegedly fired near Tuggerah Lakes.


Sunday, 31 August 2014 04:11:46 PM.


Police have charged a man after a shot was allegedly fired into a car in Lake Munmorah early this morning.


About 1.20am (Sunday 31 August 2014), two men were allegedly driving a gold Holden Commodore, on Pacific Highway, Lake Munmorah, when the car crashed into a fence.


The men got out of the car and one man allegedly fired a shot into the car, before they both ran away.


Police were contacted and officers from Tuggerah Lakes Local Area Command attended and commenced a search for the men, but did not locate them.


An investigation was commenced.


About 5.15am, a man allegedly carrying a shortened rifle approached a newspaper delivery man on Pacific Highway, Lake Munmorah, and asked for a ride.


The delivery man refused and entered a service station contacting police.

An officer from the dog squad, who was nearby, responded to the call and arrested the man with the firearm.


No one was injured as a result of the incident.


The 28-year-old man was taken to Wyong Police Station and was charged with possess shortened firearm, possess ammunition, possess prohibited drug, custody of a knife in a public place, possess housebreaking implements, goods in custody and an outstanding warrant for unrelated matters.


The Doyalson man was refused bail to appear at Wyong Local Court tomorrow (Monday 1 September 2014).


The investigation continues.


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Just for good measure the police force's spin doctors thought it would be a perfect day to trot out a major "decoy" in the form of heavy words from the Commissioner about the evils of ICE.


As his officers were preparing to lock up one of their own, Mr Scipione hit the airwaves ion the top-rating 2GB to call for "a national approach to combat" to what he referred, somewhat melodramatically, as the ICE "epidemic".


"We've got to stomp on this problem," the Commissioner urged. "The more we talk about it, the better off we'll be - you cannot over-communicate in a (nationwide) crisis.”


I personally know that some journos have had requests in since mid August to interview Mr Scipione about ICE - without joy.


So when he says "the more we talk about it the better" I guess he means some days are better than others for attracting - or distracting- media attention.


SMOKESCREEN?


The NSW Government hates discussing poor roads and the hundreds of people who die every year on them. They much prefer talking-up the bushfire season.


Since 1926, 21 people have died in NSW bush fires and that is not a typographical. Tens of thousands have perished behind the wheel. As cheap airfares slow the development of a dual carriageway between Sydney and Brisbane down to a 100 year project - the government is busy pouring tens of millions of dollars into the small army known as the NSW Rural Fire Service.


While heavily forested Victoria is by far Australia's most dangerous bush fire state - with hundreds of recorded deaths, NSW escapes relatively lightly. But every spring Sydney-siders brace themselves for the choking smoke of expansive back-burning operations.


One Saturday last November in northern Sydney the levels of toxic smoke from back-burning to the north-west of the city were up to eight times higher than what's officially considered the most hazardous level. What's known in meteorology as an "inversion" trapped frightening amounts of smoke in the Sydney basin thanks to prevailing nor-westerlies.


There are more than 180 nursing homes on the north shore and northern beaches yet health and environment authorities were silent on the exact impact of this mass-poisoning. There was such little warning about the 15km-long "burn" north of Bell that even the Asthma Foundation was caught completely off-guard - tweeting to 640,000 thousand sufferers about that weekend's "pollen count”, with no mention of the peril about to waft through windows.


As close as we got to the truth was a statement from a NSW Ambulance spokesman who said: "I can confirm that paramedics have attended people who were suffering from the smoke and [from] breathing problems." No doubt the phones at the State Coroner's office rang silent as well.


Perhaps the government should spend less money on NSW RFS Media and more on catching arsonists, who - according to bushfire arson experts - are only encouraged by all the government-generated publicity about everything from petty grassfires to so-called "catastrophic conditions”.


According to the Australian Institute of Criminology more than half the 54,000 bush fires in Australia every year are deliberate or suspicious. The arrest rate for arsonists sits at an alarming 1 for every 100 suspicious fires.


HAZZARD NOT PULLING PUNCHES


Attorney General Brad Hazzard has come out swinging in dismissing concerns that mandatory eight-year jail sentences for fatal one-punch attacks are making the sluggish court operations even slower.


Hazzard claims new laws aimed at reducing alcohol-fuelled violence seem to be working, saying:


"In Sydney we've seen a massive reduction in violence, and my view is sometimes the strict technical legal positions have to be modified by common sense that goes beyond legal technicalities. I'm very comfortable that the message to the broader community is that NSW is over senseless violence."


PYRMONT THE NEW CROSS?


I wonder if the AG is comfortable with the potential for strife in and outside the casino now that Kings Cross has become a post midnight ghost town. A few months ago I wrote of The Puccini Effect - the displacement of crime once intensified law enforcement resources force the trouble to emerge elsewhere. Pyrmont's 24-hour pubs are also outside the exclusion zone - and like Surry Hills - will soon be commanding a greater police presence, but that's by no means guaranteed.


The Kings Cross Liquor Accord campaigned long and hard for greater police patrol numbers but the force stubbornly refused to oblige, despite offers to bankroll a user-pays scheme similar to that employed for major events.


I know at least one high-profile Kings Cross night club owner is convinced the crackdown on the Cross was a government ploy to placate The Star Casino over the green light given for a high rollers establishment at Barangaroo.


VERDICT ON NEW JURY SYSTEM


The Government claims the replacement of the 20-year-old jury selection system is working.


$4.2 million has been spent on airport style electronic check-ins, on-the-spot excusals and eliminating the need for jurors to carry paper summons. Jury registration processing times at Downing Centre Court - the State's busiest - has been cut from 3.5 hours down to 30 minutes. So far this year 2100 citizens have been empanelled and 14,000 excused from a pool of 127,000.


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"He's got a very good tactical mind and is good with strategy ... great advocacy and comes to grips with the evidence."

The Sunday Telegraph, 2013

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