Police staffing crisis in Coffs
THE police union claims staffing in Coffs/Clarence is in crisis and it’s ramped up its campaign for more officers ahead of the State election.
The Police Association says this command needs 49 additional police to put it on par with other commands with a similar workload but senior police say staffing is improving.
The dispute has spilled over from last year and union representatives are now lobbying Coalition MPs with an anticipated change of government on March 26.
Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser said yesterday a Coalition government would fight for ‘as many police as we can get’ in Coffs/Clarence.
“The failure to meet minimum staffing levels is putting community safety and the welfare of officers at significant risk,” said Detective Senior Constable Tony King, the Police Association’s northern region executive member.
“In Coffs Harbour, sick and injured officers are being rostered on for fully operational roles to help keep the doors to the station open.
“There just aren’t enough police to properly protect these communities and it’s getting beyond a joke.”
Det. King said at Grafton Police Station, the front doors were being regularly locked.
“Uniform police are being placed on call and called in for overtime to meet community needs, placing further pressure on the officers remaining.
“How much better could we police these communities if we had the additional police numbers.”
Det. King said senior union officials planned to meet with the member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, and other North Coast MPs to press their case.
Coffs/Clarence local area commander, Superintendent Mark Holahan, said the staffing situation continued to improve each month and reported breaches of the first response agreement were becoming fewer.
“We picked up an extra 12 police in this command in January, the biggest increase of any command,” Mr Holahan said.
“At Coffs Harbour we have a number of police on return-to-work programs and as an employer we have an obligation to return them to pre-injury duties.
“As a result of recent discussions with the local branch of the Police Association, a number of concerns were raised with me.
“I undertook that those officers on restricted duties are not to be rostered during night shifts or on weekends as part of our first response agreement.”
Mr Holahan said that on Mondays to Fridays from 6am to 6.30pm, there would be other operational police available to help if required.
“I’m advised it’s only on six occasions over this six-week roster cycle that we have had to roster on restricted duties officers for station duties,” he said.
“These officers are not deployed on police vehicles but are rostered either in the station or as an assistant.”
Andrew Fraser said he couldn’t say how many extra police Coffs/Clarence would get under a Coalition government.
“We can’t say until we’ve found out how many extra police we can get and where we can put them,” Mr Fraser said.
“Across NSW there is a shortage of police. Obviously the Nationals will have a bias towards our own electorates and we will fight for as many police as we can get.”
Mr Fraser said he supported the Police Association over staffing and saw the problems created here by lack of resources.
“Police have to prioritise and that is totally unacceptable,” he said.