Documents show police are battling for numbers

By KUE DAVIS

HIGHWAY Patrol officers are routinely being pulled from their road duties to cover staff shortages, according to leaked police documents, we can exclusively reveal today.

Following our recent revelations that police numbers are dangerously low in Coffs Harbour, State Nationals leader Andrew Stoner has obtained documents which show that despite claims of record police numbers, there are less highway patrol police in 2007 than were in 1984.

The documents, which follow information received by The Advocate in past weeks that police staff levels are low, report that the Traffic Services Branch of the NSW police has proposed to increase police numbers in the Northern region by 70 positions with six of those allocated for Coffs Harbour.

According to the leaked documents, on July 17, amendments were made to the NSW Police Force Traffic Policy Statement, stating "Local Area Commanders or any other police with authority over Highway Patrol resources, must not roster Highway Patrol to duties other than their core traffic policing functions."

And despite this, records show staff have repeatedly been re-directed to general duties.

In one case, one highway patrol shift was 'removed due to short staffing levels in GD's (general duties)'.

This is consistent with the claims of sources close to police that highway patrol officers are often expected to cover numerous outstations, and that on some nights there is just one highway patrol car to cover the area between Urunga and Halfway Creek.

The documents also reveal the Iemma Labor Government rejected a police request for an extra 400 highway patrol officers statewide.

"Despite all the promises of record police numbers, the Iemma government has left NSW with fewer highway patrol officers than there were in 1984," Mr Stoner said.

A response from the Coffs/Clarence and Nothern Region police was not forthcoming.



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