THE locking of the Grafton Police Station on Monday night has prompted a call for the Clarence Valley to have a stand-alone police command.
Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell said he would push for a Clarence command, should the Coalition win power at the next State election, to turn around the shortage of police in his electorate.
He said the arrangement of combining Coffs Harbour and the Clarence was flawed.
“There are different issues facing police once you cross north of the range,” he said.
“Having a stand-alone Clarence command would give local police the extra two cars they want.
“You would also have someone here moving police around where they’re wanted rather than doing it from Coffs, where they have different considerations.”
Coffs-Clarence Local Area Commander Mark Holohan downplayed the seriousness of the locked doors at Grafton on Monday.
“There is no suggestion that Grafton station was shut,” Commander Holohan said.
“There were staff on duty and the doors could have been opened if they were needed.
“There were sufficient staff to meet the present risk presented. If the risk changes we have the capability to call in people.”
Commander Holohan said the decision to lock the doors had been made because of the large number of staff absent on sick leave.
“These sort of things are cyclical in nature,” Commander Holohan said.
“We are working with staff and medical people to get these people back to work.”
Mr Cansdell agreed that fluctuations in staff numbers were cyclical but noted that it was a cycle that was coming around too frequently.
“It’s mainly stress leave,” Mr Cansdell said. “It creates domino effect where the other guys jump in to keep things going.
“Pretty soon some of these people are on stress leave as well, compounding the problem.
“These are police on the frontline dealing with the drunks and idiots, fatal road accidents and domestic situations. It’s a stressful job.”
The NSW Police Association shares Mr Cansdell’s concerns about falling police numbers.
Association executive officer Tony King, a detective senior constable stationed at Grafton, said he was concerned lack of police numbers, for whatever reason, meant police could not provide an adequate service to the community.
“Unfortunately a lack of police in the area means that at times the station has been locked, as it was for periods of time on Monday night,” Detective King said.
“With the current low staffing numbers, the police working on Monday night, with the support of the local branch of the Police Association, made the decision to lock the station for periods of time.
“It’s unfortunate that it has come to this, but the police on duty were left with no other option.
“The community deserves adequate police numbers in this area so that we can keep the police station open at all times, respond to emergencies as they arise and conduct proactive, high-visibility policing that helps reduce crime.
“We need more police in the area, there’s no question about that.”