During the latest pandemic lockdown in which police have recorded the lowest number of speeding infringements on public record, three decades ago this month police refused to issue any at all.
In September 1991, Canberra's traffic officers refused to issue traffic fines after the ACT government cut $1.2 million from the police services budget, which effectively forced the end to the motorcycle police division, cut nine squad cars from the police fleet, and sent those traffic officers affected to other duties.
Operations and services had to be reduced severely and the overtime budget cut by $800,000.
The Canberra Times reported how a mass meeting of of the ACT branch of the Australian Federal Police Association rejected the cut to funding and voted for an industrial campaign.
The ACT Attorney General at the time, Terry Connolly, vowed to call the bluff of the police and said they had to face economic reality as a result of a tougher fiscal approach by the-then Rosemary Follett-led minority Labor government.
The funding cut was around 4 per cent of the police budget at the time. Health lost 8 per cent of its funding in the same Budget.
"We are getting funding down to a sustainable level," Mr Connolly told police reporter Peter Clack.
"It's all about reallocating resources. Not an officer will lose his job."
The initial agreed police industrial action was to suspend the issuing of all traffic-related fines and to not attend premises alarms. Wider action was also flagged.
ACT police numbered about 700 members at the time of the industrial action, about 200 less than the current cohort.
A report in the Canberra Times said that association president Greg Lovell sheeted blame home for the dispute directly with the government.
He said that it was obvious "police services would diminish as a result of the cuts" and it was up to police to let the public know.
Police attendance at sporting events, community activities, school fetes and youth programs had to be withdrawn under the budget cuts, as well as $20,000 from crime prevention.
The cuts also forced police cells in Belconnen, Woden and Tuggernaong to close and all prisoners sent to the city watch-house, a practice which continues to this day.
The budget cut also brought a complete overhaul to the police priority system for attendance, with the fourth priority reported as being a "letter from the police sent within seven working days".
Assistant Commissioner Peter Dawson had barely been two weeks in the role as Chief Police Officer for the ACT when the industrial action began and he rushed to assure the public that they would not be placed at risk by the cost cutting measures.
Although he admitted the same level of service could not provided "at evenings and weekends".
He predicted "a significant and uncomfortable increase in complaints against police for a year or two" as the new priority system was bedded in.
"Police will feel frustration in not being able to promptly provide the traditional level of services," he said.
"They [police] will also experience a significant drop in salary . . . the quality of police services would continue to be improved but the level would diminish."
Former police officer and ACT branch secretary Barry Bain, who now drives a taxi in Murrumbateman, said "a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then".
"But I remember there was a lot of discontent in the ranks," he said.
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