The media reporting of the Ellis matter in recent days is missing a few key facts.
As your police service, we deal in fact and credible risk. We must always walk the fine line between informing the public and potentially causing unnecessary panic or concern in the community.
The responsibility for those decisions lies with senior officers, based on verifiable information.
The reality is that are a significant number of people living in the community on varying custodial orders or other rehabilitation situations as ordered by the courts.
These people are the responsibility of the Department of Corrective Services (DCS). Breaches of supervision orders occur reasonably regularly and DCS, as the responsible agency, takes the lead in informing the public on these occasions.
The media were aware of the breach of supervision order from very early in the morning. Police Media took a call from a reporter in the first hours after the police call out appeared on MATCAD, an online near-real time record of police jobs occurring in Brisbane that is provided for media access.
We checked information, and provided him with the details we had available at that time.
In the background, the QPS was throwing significant resources at locating Ellis, including searching the surrounding area and making inquiries in the community.
A “Be On the Look Out” was broadcast several times in the area from 2am, and by 9am, an alert had gone to all police officers around the State.
The Department of Corrective Services released a statement on the breach of the supervision order at 9:31am.
At a press conference shortly after 10am, the Commissioner of Police, when questioned about the incident, expressed concern that Ellis may reoffend, and that police were working hard to locate him. These comments were reported during the day.
Print, radio and television carried the Ellis story throughout the morning and into the afternoon. His description and a photograph had been provided by the Department of Corrective Services.
The QPS takes the responsibility of making public safety warnings seriously. A warning should only be issued there is credible, factual information suggesting there is a risk.
That information came to hand at approximately 2pm, when an alleged link was established between Ellis and an assault that had occurred early that morning at around 6:30am.
At that time, immediate and urgent steps were taken to tell the public of our concerns through our usual information channels, including media releases, media conferences and our social media channels.
It was not until the link to Ellis and that assault was established that it was appropriate to identify him in relation to it. We have to work on facts and evidence, not speculation. It is worth noting that matter is still before court.
By 2:45pm, the Commissioner told a media conference of these increased public safety concerns, a release went out minutes later, and a further press conference was held at HQ at 4pm.
Ellis was subsequently located and detained by Police at Acacia Ridge later that afternoon and less than 24 hours after he first breached his supervision order.
Some of the reporting of this matter has been based on assumptions and with the knowledge of hindsight.
Other offences allegedly committed by Ellis relating to property crime were established by the police only after he was apprehended.
The QPS Police Media Unit coordinates a 24-hour service with minimal staffing levels. The Media make extensive use of this service. The Police Media Unit receives approximately 5000 calls from the media each month.
The safety of the community is our primary concern. Everyday we make judgement calls in relation to matters that are unfolding at the time. With the perfect vision of hindsight, it can be easy to be critical, however we have to make decisions on the information available to us at the time. Our commitment to the safety of the community, however, is absolute.