‘We’re over it!’ is what is being said by car enthusiasts in Queensland, following the latest joint operation by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the Department of Transport and Main Roads.
The monthly Downshift meet was held at the Rocklea Showgrounds and attracted over 1200 vehicles and their owners and families. In addition it attracted a different crowd, with a different agenda to other attendees.
Those attendees were the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Transport and Main Roads. Setup on each of the roads leading to the Rocklea Showgrounds, the operation was to inspect cars and to highlight any defects and issue defect notices.
This operation was the tipping point for car enthusiasts, following previous operations which have targeted attendees of this event. In an open letter to the Queensland Premier, the Downshift organisers shared their account, and views. You can read it in full below:
Back in October 2012, I wrote to you requesting assistance with giving automotive enthusiasts a place to enjoy their hobby and legitimate past-time. At that time you supported us and kindly arranged a meeting with both Police and Transport. During this meeting, Transport representatives were fantastic, while Police representatives were aggressive and not to be reasoned with. At the time, I decided that it would be better to simply avoid crossing paths in future.
Yesterday, I organised one of the biggest events for car enthusiasts that Queensland has ever seen, at the Rocklea Showgrounds. Over 1200 vehicles attended from a range of enthusiast disciplines from four wheel drives to classics, drag cars, Japanese, and supercars. The Australian Confederation of Motor Clubs and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party also attended and made presentations, making this a political meeting as well. The behaviour of attendees was exemplary – I have never seen so many enthusiasts behave so well. There were no burnouts, no skids, no antisocial behaviour whatsoever. The event was legal, held on private property and registered with the Special Interest Vehicles scheme.
Despite this, Queensland Police set up a sting operation where officers from as far afield as Ipswich were invited to shoot fish in a barrel. I immediately spoke to officers in charge at both locations, but was met with arrogance and an inability to be reasoned with. At one point, an officer compared defecting car enthusiasts to, I quote “if you want lollies, go to a candy store”. I have heard of dozens of stories of unreasonable force by officers. One example was where a representative from the Motorama Holden car dealership brought along a brand new vehicle from the lot to display it, and was held up for 30 minutes while officers went over it with a fine tooth comb in an effort to find something wrong with it. When he protested, he was told that they would keep going until they found something. I have the gentleman’s contact details if you would like to verify this disgraceful occurrence yourself.
The icing on top of the cake was when two officers attended from another branch closer to the city, and requested to gain access to the grounds to find a child who had been missing for over 2 hours. We assisted them to locate said child, who has been reunited with his family (and had a great time at the event). The community has rightly questioned why the 30+ officers who were manning the defect stations were unable to lower their fine books to look for a missing person for a few minutes, and the more cynical have suggested that it may be that locating a child doesn’t pay as well as fining people for truly trivial things such as slightly too dark window tinting (which I may add was done using un-calibrated equipment).
As a result, there has been a significant backlash from our community of 50,000. I would not be surprised if you and your party lost at least 20,000 votes at the upcoming election as a direct result of this blatant harassment yesterday. All it would take to fix the situation is to command Police to work with us; avoid specifically targeting events where people are trying to do the right thing; and respect an exclusion zone around sanctioned, legitimate events.
When I received your response to my enquiries last time, I was hopeful that we would be able to work together with government and give a significant part of the community events that would be supported by the government instead of being specifically targeted and discriminated against. You claim that you want to address the problem of hooning. So do I. Targeting well-behaved enthusiasts at a legal, sanctioned, registered family-friendly motoring event is not the way to do that. At this point, I’m disappointed and promoting an alternative political party who is able to respect people doing the right thing.
P.S. For your reference, the reference on your return correspondence is EP/AF08 – TF/12/27960 – DOC/12/221427, dated 18 December 2012.”
The Premier did reply directly and here’s his response below:
“Hi Matyas, Thanks for sharing your concerns about your experience at Rocklea yesterday.
These police enforcement activities are an operational matter for the Queensland Police Service under the direction of the Police Commissioner. I cannot direct the Police Commissioner in these matters.
However, I do agree with you that it is not okay to single out car enthusiasts, if that’s what has occurred.
You should know that you can refer this matter to the Crime and Misconduct Commission for investigation. If you are not comfortable contacting them directly, I would be happy to refer this issue on your behalf if you provide me with specific details of what happened and your contact details.
I understand that the majority of car enthusiasts do not set out to break the law and I recognise the efforts of community leaders in encouraging safe and responsible behaviour on our roads.
I’m sure you can appreciate that the Queensland Police play an important role in keeping our community safe by enforcing road rules while also meeting the high standards the community expects of them.
You can email me via http://www.thepremier.qld.gov.au/tools/contact.aspx
So it seems, that Campbell Newman can see both sides of the story and doesn’t support the explicit targeting of car enthusiasts and what seemingly happened on Sunday.
Daily Auto Fix also reached out to the Department of Transport and Main Roads, regarding the operation. Here is their official response to our request for comment from their spokesperson below:
“Transport and Main Roads transport inspectors assisted police to inspect vehicles as part of a Queensland Police operation near the Rocklea Showground at the weekend.
We’ll continue to work with police and the car enthusiast community to identify defects and remove illegally modified vehicles from the road to ensure safety.
Safety is our top priority and we participate in operations targeting various vehicle types, from heavy vehicles to light vehicles.”
Of course, being heavy road users ourselves, we entirely agree that illegally modified vehicles or vehicles that aren’t roadworthy should be identified, as we see these all too often. No doubt, next time during your commute to work, you could identify a number of cars which would be questionable.
In our experience of attending Downshift meets, you’ll meet a very large number of owners who are very passionate about their cars. They also invest heavily into their vehicles to modify their vehicles and usually contain significantly more knowledge than most. Usually these modifications enhance the braking ability, the handling or even the fuel efficiency.
Now we had a chance to speak to Rory O’Donovan, the founder of Downshift, you can read the full interview with him on the issue and the background to Downshift. It’s a worthwhile read, to give even more context to what Downshift is, and their previous attempts to make this situation work between the law enforcement agencies and the car enthusiast community. Check it out here.
The targeting of events like this which encourage road users to come together, share their passion for vehicles does no good in encouraging respect for our law enforcement officers, or their respect for the law.
There will be some opposing views, and yes. There shouldn’t be a blind eye turned towards car enthusiasts. It will be always the case that some will break the law, and that some will do no good for the image of the community. Just imagine though, the great relationship there could be if there was an active, and positive presence at these events from the Queensland Police Service.
Instead of causing massive traffic delays, using questionable judgement for defects and impacting the whole community in a negative way. Why not be available to give advice about legal modifications, what you can do/what you can’t do.
Do the police arrest every single attendee who drinks at Schoolies? Or do they have an active presence there to provide assistance and give guidance before problems?
Let’s get a better attitude from all sides, and work together so car enthusiasts can enjoy our investments and so the roads are safer for all in the future.