After graduating from the Police Academy at the end of 1979, Steve O’Connell drove his car with all of his belongings to Mackay. Shortly thereafter, he relieved at the newly constructed Cannonvale Police Station which, at that time, had two Officers, being Mike Cartmill and Ian Swan. In fact, Steve’s sister came to visit and ended up marrying Ian Swan. After this initial relief posting to Cannonvale, Steve was then stationed at the Proserpine Station for 2 years. Then, there was 10 years on the Gold Coast where he mostly worked in the CIB. Next was a promotion to the role of Detective Sergeant at the Mackay CIB. Steve then relieved as the Officer in Charge of the Whitsunday CIB after Paul Wilson left the area. Many local people will recall Paul Wilson who later went on to become a Deputy Commissioner and who has only just recently retired. Steve was then posted to Finch Hatton as the Officer in Charge there for 7 years and he then became the Officer in Charge at Proserpine for 4 years. At the beginning of 2006 he became the Senior Sergeant at the Cannonvale Police Station. Most recently, over the last 12 months, Steve has been an Acting Inspector during a period of restructure within the force. Based at Whitsunday he is in charge of all country stations in the Mackay District which comprises 21 stations from Clermont to St Lawrence up to Bowen and Collinsville.
Steve met his future wife Julieanne Gough (nee Stanley) when she was working at the Proserpine Police Station and they married in 2001. Steve has seen the growth of the Cannonvale Police Station from two Officers to 25 uniform Officers plus five first year Constables, five Detectives, four water Police and a full time Scenes of Crime Officer which will soon be increased to two. Also, there is a full time Police Prosecutor as well as a part time
Intelligence Officer who analyses crime trends as well as profiling.With all of these Officers, believe it or not, there are only two administration staff. In addition to seeing the Cannonvale Police Station grow and develop over the years Steve has also seen considerable growth in the township of Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday area.
When asked about his thoughts on the Safe Night Out Strategy (“SNOS”), Steve commented that there have been two examples of one punch assaults which have resulted in deaths in Airlie Beach. In relation to the powers and resources that are to be given to the Queensland Police Service (“QPS”) within the Safe Night Out legislation, Acting Inspector O’Connell is of the belief that the following will be of great assistance:
a) The power to direct a person to leave an area and not return for 24 hours (Move on Direction);
b) Being able to issue a Banning Notice for initially 10 days or for 3 months to immediately ban a person who is behaving in a disorderly or violent way;
c) Linking Banning Notice information, including photos of the banned person, with ID scanners in licensed venues to improve enforcement of Banning Notices.
Steve mentioned from the viewpoint of Police, the recent redevelopment of the main street of Airlie Beach has been very successful. Also, it is hoped that the proprietors of the licensed venues in Airlie Beach will band together to seek funding for CCTV cameras and security scanners. Steve also commented that the LED lighting has made a significant difference to visibility in the main street and that has greatly assisted Police.
Acting Inspector O’Connell made the point that Police want people to have a good time but the QPS needs to be proactive in minimising the probability of incidents occurring. For example, conflict seems to inevitably follow where intoxicated people congregate and it is important that Police have the ability to be able to justifiably move people on and to prevent large groups of people from forming which is often the precursor to a violent incident.
When asked about drug use, Acting Inspector O’Connell mentioned that it seems that the use of Ecstasy has decreased but the use of Ice has increased. Both these drugs are amphetamine based however Ice is more pure and seems to create extreme reactions including violence. There have been some recent detections of heroin. Added to this is the alcohol culture of preloading with drinks before going out and then mixing alcohol with drugs which can be ultimately the cocktail that leads to violent behaviour. That is what the QPS and the government is looking to control by the use of the strategies of the Safe Night Out legislation.
Acting Inspector O’Connell is confident that the new laws will have a positive effect in the night precincts of both Mackay and Airlie Beach.