The Western Australian (WA) police have performed a long standing and key role in managing public disorder offences, well before the codification of offences and their powers in the Police Act 1892.
It should be understood that police have been historically responsible for enforcing compliance with a very broad range of offences, such as enforcement of compliance with liquor licensing legislation and other administrative-like offences, such as weights and measures.
The WA Police have undergone a series of substantial administrative reforms and adopted a number of organisational titles –
- Western Australian Police Department (WAPD): 1853 – May 1995
- Western Australian Police Service (WAPS): June 1995 – June 2006
- Western Australia Police (WAPOL): July 2006 – present
The enforcement of liquor licensing offences had been routinely carried out by the police in WA until the late 1980s when this changed with the abolition of the Liquor and Gaming Branch in June 1989 and the passage of the Liquor Control Act 1988 (LCA).
The LCA resulted in police powers in relation to licensed premises and breaches of the liquor licensing legislation to be transferred to and performed by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor (DRGL).
In December 1989 the DRGL commenced being able to issue infringement notices for a range of offences, such as drinking alcohol in a street or public place, which previously had been dealt with exclusively by the police.
Another change in the policing of alcohol intoxication flowed from the decriminalisation of drunkenness by the Acts Amendment (Detention of Drunken Persons) Act 1989, which amended the Police Act 1892 and the Child Welfare Act 1947.
This decriminalisation reform was proclaimed in April 1990 and enabled the gradual development of sobering up centres (SUCs) mostly located in remote and regional areas of the State, which have been largely utilised by Indigenous people.
The provision of SUCs was explicitly developed as separate from both the public health and other medical services and were operated to only provide short-stay accommodation on an overnight basis.
Sources of data
Official detailed statistical information about policing, characteristics of offenders and types of offence, changes in organisational arrangements, developments in services and policies are contained in annual reports from the commencement of the period.
This means annual reports can potentially be a rich source of statistical data contained in tables of breakdowns of data policing and other law enforcement measures such as arrests, types of offence, that were publicly available and published as appendices to annual reports.
Criminal statistics were published from 1860 to 1900, which include data about public drunkenness and other offences, in the WA Year Book and Statistical Register.
Annual reports with appended tables with detailed information such as breakdowns of type of offence, were published by the WA Police Department from 1876 – 1890 and then from 1896/1897 to 1962/1963.
However, as annual reports after the year 1962/1963 ceased inclusion of the detailed tables published in earlier reports, more recent statistical information is not readily available in annual departmental reports and needs to be obtained from a variety of sources or through special request, which may not be readily forthcoming.
In summary detailed publicly available breakdowns of statistical data were published in –
- 1860 – 1870: Blue Books
- 1885 – 1899: WA Year Books and Statistical Register
- 1876 – 1890: Annual reports of police with detailed data in appended statistical tables
- 1896/1897 to 1962/1963: Annual reports of police with detailed data in appended statistical tables
- 1966/1967 – 1981/1982: West Australian Year Books
- 1983/1984 – 1988/1989: Australian Bureau of Statistics series
It should also be noted that detailed statistical information contained in tables appended to annual reports was collated and presented by calendar year until 1962, even though departmental annual reports were published on a financial years basis from 1896/1897.
Annual reports: WA Police Department (1876 – 1962/1963)