Police rectify staff shortage

IT SEEMS Coffs/Clarence police are making headway in their battle over staffing shortages.

A crisis meeting between the Police Association and police chiefs in Coffs Harbour yesterday agreed on a change to rostering practices.

“It was pretty positive all-round I’ve got to say,” said Detective Senior Constable Tony King, the Police Association’s northern region executive member.

“It appears on paper we can meet the minimum staffing levels at Coffs Harbour and Grafton, however, there is still some robbing of Peter to pay Paul. Local police are willing to trial these practices.

“In the mid-term, the regional command will attempt to create an eligibility list for vacant positions, which means positions once they become vacant can be filled quicker than usual.”

Detective King said a meeting had been scheduled for January 13 to discuss progress. He confirmed there had been discussions on a local increase in allocated police.

Acting local area commander, Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay, said the staffing strategies had been in the pipeline for some time.

“We have been working hard to find solutions but we maintain there has been no drop in our levels of service to the community,” Mr Lindsay said.

“Police in this local area command deliver a high level of service and these strategies we’ve worked on will hopefully transpire into a resolution to the issues raised by the association.”

Our front page article last Friday highlighting the police staffing crisis has made it to State Parliament.

The member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, told the House police numbers in regional NSW, especially in the Coffs/Clarence local area command, were “well and truly below those of our city cousins”.

“We have one police officer per 700 people,” he said.

“The Police union has said the Coffs Harbour police station, which is the largest police station in my electorate, is struggling to keep its doors open.

“Recently Sawtell Police Station was closed temporarily and a young student took up a petition. However, the only response was from the assistant commissioner who said that police numbers were at strength.

Mr Fraser said only one general duties police car was available for the whole command on any given Friday night or Saturday night, the time when historically most incidents occurred and police resources were needed.

“The Coffs Harbour Police Station was due for replacement in 1995 and a new station is now only at the planning stage.

“The local area commander lives in a demountable at the back of the station and police officers are required to wait for a desk to become available so as to type up their daily incident reports.”

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