Police now at breaking point

By KUE DAVIS

EXCESSIVE workloads, stress, and a lack of support, are driving police out of the force, according to former acting detective sergeant Scott Goodhand.

Formerly a detective senior constable and acting detective sergeant at Coffs Harbour, Mr Goodhand was discharged from the service on November 9 and says staffing issues reported in the Coffs Coast Advocate recently have been a problem for a long time.

Mr Goodhand said he began addressing the issue in March of last year with the former local area commander, Superintendent Peter Barrie, when the low number of available police began taking its toll on the detectives.

"The excessive workload, along with the lack of support from middle management gradually builds up. As each person goes off on sick leave, the workload increases for the ones that are left," he said.

He said he took the issue to management in the hope of getting some results instead, he was told to control his own work management, and that he was aware of how to gain assistance if he needed it.

"Basically, I was told to go and seek help myself if I wanted it," he said.

"The child protection unit, crime scene investigators and crime agencies are all sent to compulsory counselling sessions at least once every three to six months.

"They offer five free counselling sessions for officers, but the problem is that in the force there's a culture that you don't need help it's not until you've fallen over that you realise you really do need it."

Mr Goodhand said throughout his time as acting detective sergeant he received phone calls at home from the worried wives of other detectives, pleading for him to do something.

"I did all the right things went through all the right channels, and while it was acknowledged that there was a problem, nothing ever happened," he said.

"I went to management, I went to the Police Association, the employment management board, the employment assistance program I did everything step by step, asking for assistance.

"There was acknowledgement that there was an issue, but never any action taken. At one stage, they committed to sending two more people, but they never turned up."

Mr Goodhand said he had no doubt that if the issue was better handled; many of the officers now on long-term sick leave and some who have been discharged would still be on the force.

Acting Coffs/Clarence local area commander Tony Ferguson declined to further comment on the staffing situation, except to explain there was an employee assistance program in place for officers and their families.

While the NSW Police Association was unavailable for comment at the time of press, their Official Journal for November 2007 mentions Coffs Harbour as a priority for additional positions to assist with detectives' offices in crisis.

Hunter region executive member, Kel Graham, wrote 'this is an essential rear guard action to prevent further detectives from falling off the perch due to stress, burnout, etc.'



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