By KUE DAVIS
DRAMAS in the Coffs/Clarence command have not surprised Gary McEvoy.
Mr McEvoy, a former detective senior sergeant at Coffs Harbour, was medically discharged from the force in February of 2006.
He said recently reported issues regarding low police numbers are not new, and the Command has had staffing issues for almost two years.
"From what I understand, the problems with staffing are consistent and similar to those we had only now, they seem to have spread to highway patrol and general duties police."
More than 18 months ago, and at his own expense, Mr McEvoy said he obtained information regarding staffing levels through the freedom of information process in a bid to resolve the problem.
"I raised these issues because throughout 2004 and 2005 I saw my office crumble. The stress of the workload hit myself and my staff, and the attitude of denial from the commander, the commissioner, the minister and the Police Association was unbelievable.
"They have their head in the sand over the whole issue and it's infuriating a lot of police."
He said it was just a matter of time before the issue became too much to bear.
"It's not surprising - I could see this coming. The amount of officers on leave for stress and psychological reasons shows how bad the situation is."
Mr McEvoy said the command should be supporting the officers.
"What we'd really like to see is some acknowledgement that there is a problem, and that they're working to fix it.
"I totally support the hard work that the men and women of the force are doing. We need to look after them and make sure they're healthy, happy and well they are the ones that look after us when we're sleeping."
Police Association Grafton branch official, Tony King, told The Daily Examiner there is definitely a shortage of police officers working in the region and that it was impacting seriously on public safety.
"The main issue that my members have had for many years is the lack of officers," Mr King said.
Mr McEvoy explained that while the command had received 14 new probationary officers, this actually created a larger workload for experienced police.
"It takes around two years for the probationary constables to become experienced enough to be able to make key decision by themselves. Long-term, is a good thing, but short term it doesn't help much."
He explained that probationary constables are not counted in the authorised strength and often replace officers on sick leave - meaning numbers on the ground remain the same.
He said the key to combating the problem is to increase the authorised strength.
"That shows commitment, rather than a quick band-aid solution."