POLICE cars emblazoned with the logo of mining company Santos have been spotted around Grafton, causing a stir over the separation of business and state.
Authorities have confirmed the decal-clad vehicles were not part of the New South Wales police fleet but were visiting on a road safety awareness tour from Queensland.
Santos is a major sponsor of the Queensland Police Service's "Stay on Track Outback" campaign involving three non-operational vehicles decorated with road safety graphics - a motorhome and two utes - driving around western Queensland and NSW.
Anti-coal group Stop Brisbane Coal Trains spokesman John Gordon said on Twitter it was "a bloody disgrace" and called for all Santos logos to be removed.
He said the cars being promotional vehicles rather than active police cars was "immaterial".
"This is not only inappropriate but also highly insensitive. To have the logo emblazoned on the vehicles implies favouritism and/or cosy deals," he said.
A Santos representative defended the deal, comparing it to other community sponsorships the company undertakes with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and CareFlight helicopters.
"Santos is proud to support a program that promotes safe driving and is saving lives in outback Australia," he said.
A QPS spokesman said there was no conflict of interest and that it "does not treat any individual, business or organisation differently".
"The sponsorship of service activities is never a factor the QPS takes into consideration when decisions are made in relation to taking enforcement action - no matter the issue."