Police shortage puts pressure on station

Crime scene: The police paddywagon driven by the injured police cordoned off by police. Photo: Andrew Messenger
Crime scene: The police paddywagon driven by the injured police cordoned off by police. Photo: Andrew Messenger

The Glen Innes police station is short of staff, putting pressure on their remaining full-time permanent officers in case of call outs.

The station has also been forced to draw police from other local areas like Armidale in order to fill the roster.

Glen Innes police station has far less than the budgeted number of full-time permanent staff actually living and working in town. The police department promised that they are hiring additional officers for the New England area.

This is in the context of a police station recovering from January's horrendous shooting incident when two police were shot and badly injured by a high-calibre weapon fired by Eric Newman. In total three officers were put on leave and will remain off work until they are ready to return.

The department has not seconded officers from other stations to fill the staffing gap in the station caused by the shooting.

FAMILY SUPPORT: Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie with her partner, Garry Huard, who had to travel five hours to the Gold Coast following the shooting in January.

FAMILY SUPPORT: Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie with her partner, Garry Huard, who had to travel five hours to the Gold Coast following the shooting in January.

The staff shortage is not a safety issue. All shifts are being covered and in case of a crisis the station can call on specialist staff like detectives and highway patrol officers.

Because the Glen Innes station is not a 24 hour station, if there is a serious incident that requires immediate response outside of staffed hours, the normal procedure is to "callout" officers who are not on duty. Because there are far fewer officers than budgeted for, there are fewer officers available to be called out. The risk is that remaining officers could be called out more often as a result.

The Police Minister's office was contacted by the Glen Innes Examiner and asked if he thought the situation was fair on the current police. He was also asked what he was doing to resolve it. The inquiry was referred to the Police Department as it was considered operational.

A spokesperson for the department responded saying they "regularly review resourcing and allocation of police officers according to operational needs".

"We will continue to monitor police numbers to ensure communities are served and supported by their local officers," the spokesperson said.

"Police numbers are subject to fluctuations due to recruitment of new police, resignations and retirements as well as training, special operations and leave.

"Recruitment for officers to transfer to New England Police District is underway."

Colleagues: Samantha Petty, left, with injured officers Sergeant Mark Johnston and Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie. Photos: Glen Innes Examiner, Adam Marshall

Colleagues: Samantha Petty, left, with injured officers Sergeant Mark Johnston and Senior Constable Helen McMurtrie. Photos: Glen Innes Examiner, Adam Marshall

The President of the NSW Police Association, Tony King, said the union wanted an overall increase in police numbers.

"Thanks to the pressure police and our communities have put on our politicians, the Liberal and Labor parties have committed to increasing the number of police in this state," he said in a statement.

"We need to have enough police resources on the ground to be able to keep our communities safe at all times.

"The situation in Glen Innes highlights the unpredictable and volatile nature of policing. We need to expect the unexpected and have the resources on hand to deal with any situation that is thrown at us."

Assistant Commissiner Geoff McKechnie was interviewed by media at the scene the next morning. Photo: Andrew Messenger

Assistant Commissiner Geoff McKechnie was interviewed by media at the scene the next morning. Photo: Andrew Messenger

The union previously called for officers to be armed with larger weapons like automatic rifles for better protection against armed criminals.