VALLEY LOSES TOP COPS

By TOBY WALKER

CONCERNS have been raised about a proposal to relocate the Clarence Valley's most senior police officer to Coffs Harbour, effectively removing an entire tier of strategic command from the area.

The Grafton-based policeman is the last remaining duty-officer in the Clarence Valley after former Inspector Arthur Seewald's position was filled in Coffs Harbour late last year following his retirement.

The Member for Clarence, Steve Cansdell, believed the centralisation of senior officers at Coffs Harbour, about 160km from Yamba, would undermine the ability of local police to perform necessary duties efficiently.

"We've had problems at Yamba, which have been growing for a couple of years now, and removing senior police from the area does nothing to boost morale in the police and does nothing to support the community," he said.

Duty officers, by way of seniority, are needed to authorise particular police functions and are required to be present during operations like this week's Wooloweyah cannabis raid.

Mr Cansdell likened the proposed move to the recent restructure of the North Coast Area Health Service to Lismore, a move that took some authoritative power away from hospitals in the Clarence Valley.

ACTING Superintendent of the Coffs-Clarence Command, Paul Fehon, said duty officers were still actively involved in the Clarence Valley daily, travelling from Coffs Harbour to the area to oversee command.

He said plans to strengthen the presence of senior officers in the Clarence Valley were underway but had not been finalised.

The new co-ordination, he said, would provide greater flexibility for duty officers to travel between stations.

"The flexibility will include coverage, both morning and afternoon, by duty officers who will be centrally located at Coffs Harbour," he said.

But the proposal has received a cool response from some members of the Grafton branch of the Police Association.

Grafton Police Association representative Tony King said officers had confidence in the Coffs/Clarence Command's staffing decisions but said losing the Clarence Valley's last remaining duty officer would make certain police tasks more difficult.

"At this stage, the people I've spoken to, we haven't had a branch meeting about it, but we're certainly opposed to a transfer of all the duty officers down to Coffs (Harbour)," he said.

"What it basically means is that some duties we perform need an inspector's approval or the inspector has to be there.

"It will just make our job a little bit harder and it also removes a senior person from a rather large town (Grafton).

"One of the roles of duty officers, and I think I'm correct in saying this, was the corruption issue.

"What kind of supervision can they do from 160km away?"



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