It's a familiar scene: a pregnant women in labour, an anxious dad-to-be, a police car speeding along with lights and sirens. But wait - the police car is heading away from the hospital! What's going on? Welcome to the wacky world of footy finals in Melbourne.
Kangaroos forward Saverio Rocca made it on time to the delivery ward for the Fathers' Day birth of his second child. But the delivery was taking longer than hoped and, not wanting to miss playing in a football match, he scooted out of there 50 minutes before the bounce. Happily, the birth proceeded without his presence and he was informed during the quarter time huddle that he had a new son. Before we rush to judgement about his priorities, it's worth remember that Sav is a professional AFL footballer.
However, police rushed him to Telstra Dome from Heidelberg at 135 km/h with lights and sirens, a journey of some 15 km through heavily-built up areas of the city, including the CBD.
Police initially denied reports that Rocca had been taken to Telstra Dome in a police car.
But in a radio interview, Anthony Rocca thanked the police for getting the pair to the game on time. He said he had been happy to take the ride with sirens sounding. (The Hun, 5/9/05)
This is a disgraceful use of police resources for the private benefit of a famous and wealthy individual. Suppose that the speeding police car had knocked down a pedestrian or been involved in a collision? It's one thing to subject the public to such risks when chasing down criminals, but helping out a footy team? Even this footy-mad town would not tolerate dead or injured citizens in the name of Sav getting a kick.
Let's not forget that primary mission of the police is public safety. The next time you need police assistance and are told to wait because police are tied up with more important work, it may well be because they are ferrying AFL players around. Or picking up their dry cleaning. Maybe washing their cars. Who knows to what extent the police are willing to do favours for the glamour boys of the AFL?
This special treatment takes on sinister overtones when we think back to remarks by one of our most senior police, Simon Overland, about his lack of confidence in police investigations into AFL players. We've also seen the "light touch" approach to policing AFL players in Geelong. Reports like this about cosy arrangements are further flamed by incompetent official denials by the police themselves. Not only will they break the law to help out their sporting stars, they're prepared to it cover up too! Disgusting.
We can't really blame the Roccas for this. As superstar AFL players feted day-in, day-out, it's only natural that they expect (and accept) such privileges. Victoria Police who need to take responsibility for this, but it's only now that they've been caught out that any serious examination is going on. Superintendent Tim Cartwright admitted that "We've done similar things before" and that the police officer in question could face "counselling" or a "penalty notice". Hardly adequate for endangering public safety, wasting police time and resources and adding to a perception of police "looking out for" AFL players. Shame, VicPol, shame.
Citations: The Hun, 5/9/05
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