THE police association is calling for a permanent officer to manage custodies in the Tamworth cells, which boast more numbers than some Sydney stations.
The Leader can reveal the cells in Tamworth Police Station saw 1692 custodies in 2016 – 464 more than Macquarie Fields in Sydney.
Burwood in Sydney’s inner west recorded 1206 custodies, last year, while Newcastle was slightly busier than Tamworth, recording 1853 custodies in the same time period.
The three metropolitan stations boast a permanent custody manager, and in some cases an assisting officer, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.
In Tamworth, one general duties officer overseas custody management, sometimes overseeing 10 people in custody.
Tamworth is one of the region’s holding cells meaning if the Tamworth Correctional Centre is full, the overflow of those men refused bail can remain in the station cells until a bed is available. Similarly, Gunnedah’s bail refused custodies, and in some instances those from New England, can be sent to Tamworth.
The town’s jail is not equipped for juveniles or women meaning those bail refused can wait in the cells until a flight is chartered to fly them to correctional centres in Sydney or Central West.
According to the numbers, seen by The Leader, those refused bail spend an average of 10 hours in custody in the Tamworth cells – four more than those in Newcastle. On average, there were 4.6 custodies per day in 2016 in Tamworth, and 3.3 or 3.4 in the Sydney stations.
Police Association of NSW Tamworth Branch Chair Josh Naughtin said the branch had written to the NSW Police hierarchy earlier this year calling for a permanent custody manager position to be allocated to deal with the influx of prisoners.
“The branch has concerns there will be a death in custody with the lack of resources,” he said.
“We’ve already had two close calls in 2017 that have highlighted additional issues in the charge room and the need for more resourcing.
“At the moment we only have one officer, and on some occasions it’s not enough to deal with the number of custodies.
“When the Oxley command is merged with part of Barwon to become Oxley Police District, what will happen with the custodies from the sectors of Narrabri, Wee Waa, Pilliga and Boggabri.
“Our members are concerned that one officer is not enough to cope with the requirements to adequately care and supervise those in custody in the Tamworth cells.”
Western Region commander and Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said the decisions on resourcing of staff would be made by the new Oxley commander in 2018, following nine extra positions that were announced for the command, ahead of the force’s re-engineering and boundary overhaul.
He said the consultation on the re-engineering process was still ongoing, and would continue in the first few weeks of January.
Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said all bail refused persons in Barwon are taken to the Moree cells, ahead of court.
“It’s proposed the court feeder process will remain the same,” he said.