THE police association fears the force’s overhaul of the Oxley command will still see a shortfall of officers to police local communities including Tamworth.
From March next year, the Oxley Police District will take Willow Tree as well as 30 per cent of the Barwon policing area including Narrabri and out to Pilliga, covering a population of 85,000 people.
Twenty-two police stations and more than 180 officers will be under the command of newly-announced Oxley Superintendent Fred Trench, who will take on the job next year.
But The Leader can reveal the union representing local police fears the overhaul won’t deliver much-needed frontline staff as well as support officers to field phones in stations and help police respond to calls for help.
“Officers worry they’re going to be taking on 30 per cent of another command but they’re not being adequately resourced to deal with the extra responsibility,” Police Association of NSW Tamworth Branch Chair Josh Naughtin said.
Officers worry they’re going to be taking on 30 per cent of another command but they’re not being adequately resourced to deal with the extra responsibility.Police Association of NSW Tamworth Branch Chair Josh Naughtin
“We know that police in Oxley are already under-resourced, and the police force has recognised that with nine new constable positions announced already which we have been calling for since August.
“But the re-engineering process has to deliver on a commitment to adequately staff the command to meet the demands of the community.”
Mr Naughtin said data showed 25 per cent of calls to Tamworth Police Station in 2011 were not answered.
“The volume of calls has only increased, and we need to ensure those calls are being answered otherwise the community won’t bother ringing if they can’t get through to their local police,” he said.
“It’s going to be harder for communities outside of Tamworth to get in touch with local police as those smaller stations are switched through to Tamworth, and those calls only increase as we take on more stations.
“Officers also fears lock-up keepers and outlying officers will be pulled into the bigger centre to deal with the lack of resources.”
Under the draft proposal, Mr Naughtin said the criminal investigation unit, or detectives, could have a ratio of one detective sergeant to supervise 14 investigators – double the 1:7 ratio being proposed for the neighbouring New England Police District.
Similarly, there are concerns the administration staff ratio will be the same, while the Target Action Group could be left with as little as one sergeant and three officers in Tamworth compared to a squad of 12 in New England, once the Moree and Armidale teams merge.
“We need more resources in our detectives’ office and Target Action Group to proactively target drug supply, organised crime as well as property crime and recidivist offenders to ease the pressure on general duties and limit the volume crime,” Mr Naughtin said.
In general duties, Oxley will boast eight sergeants and 56 constables, but the police association wants to see 12 sergeants and 64 constables, to combat the shortages between 10am-5pm on some weekdays, especially in Tamworth.
But Western Region top cop Geoff McKechnie said the staffing proposals were only in the infancy stages.
“It is still all in the consultation phase, and that will run for another week and in the first week in January we will be finalising our draft organisational structure and putting those out for further discussions with effected staff,” he said.
“The association is feeding back to us and this is a draft process and I’m confident we can address the concerns they have as we finalise the process.
It is still all in the consultation phase, and that will run for another week and in the first week in January we will be finalising our draft organisational structure and putting those out for further discussions with effected staff.Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie
“We’re looking at the redeployment of sworn and unsworn staff and these are things for the commander where he puts TAG numbers, and Tamworth will also have the Regional Enforcement Squad (RES) component that will come online next year too.”
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said New England’s numbers would be different as it incorporates three 24-hour stations.
“We’ve been talking to councils and different organisations and I’ll be talking to local members again, and anyone that might have an interest in this process,” he said.