Bruce Thomas

Local cops at breaking point

CLARENCE Valley police are running at 80 per cent capacity due to one in five officers being on extended sick or stress leave.

According to the NSW Police Association, the problem is that bureaucrats within the police force include the on-leave officers when considering the area’s police allocations and population to police ratios.

Detective Sergeant Tony King, the association’s northern region executive officer, said this left the ‘authorised police strength’ for the area drastically low.

Det King said police numbers did not reflect the growth of the area and police were being put at risk as a result.

Adding to the concern, in a recent article in the Northern Star, Det King outlined how murder investigations were being compromised by the lack of funding for homicide detectives.

Det King said there had been absolutely no increase in investigative police numbers in the 11 years he’d been in the job.

The Clarence patrol based in Grafton had only six detectives, he said, and two of those were currently on extended sick leave while another was on holiday.

“At the last state election the Coffs/Clarence command received six extra police, including two highway patrol officers and four general duties officers. The command runs from Urunga to Iluka ... It’s basically a drop in the ocean,” Mr King said.

“Bunnings, Shoppingworld and Aldi have either increased their store sizes or opened up new branches in recent years ... Obviously the business community can see the Clarence Valley is growing.

“However, NSW Police does not have a plan in place for the allocation of officers to keep pace with the population.”

Asked if the Lower Clarence would be adequately policed over summer as tourist numbers swelled, Mr King said a ‘leave embargo’ was imposed during that time, but that caused other stresses for officers.

“NSW police are not allowed to take holidays during the busy summer period. This places further strain on resources and further stress on officers who want to be with their families,” Mr King said.

“It is the Police Association’s position that policing is a high stress and dangerous occupation and the Clarence Valley is not immune to those stresses or assaults, as indicated by last weekend’s police assault at Yamba.

“Can we begrudge people being ill or needing some time to deal with the incidents they deal with?”

He said the solution was simple: “It is the association’s position that, when looking at police numbers, we should look at those that are capable of full duties – not those recovering from injury, illness or trauma.”

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