Donato: We Must Fight for Our Cops

Police Officers have been been faced with gag-orders as the Government tries hiding the real detail of Local Area Command amalgamations. Philip Donato airs some truths.

Philip Donato MP

I draw upon my experience following a 22 year police career when I write these lines. I have justifiable concerns with the proposed “re-engineering” of the New South Wales Police Force.   

This re-engineering involves the proposed amalgamation of 11 regional Local Area Commands (LACs) into just seven. Any amalgamations will involve the reduction of pivotal senior positions, including Local Area Commanders, Crime Managers, Local Area Managers and other supportive administrative staff. 

Experienced leadership is vital in a day and age where the workload of Police is ever increasing.  Police rely on this experienced leadership when faced with an increased incidence of grave danger and during life and death situations. Removing these critical leadership positions will not reduce crime or improve service delivery to the community. Instead, what it will do is place unnecessary stress and workload on a narrowing thin blue line.

Let us not forget those Local Area Commanders, Crime Managers, Local Area Managers and remaining administrative staff who will be left to manage, supervise and support these larger LAC’s of substantially increased staff.  A greater number of investigative cases, and increased administration of significantly more staff over a larger geographical area will magnify this burden on our Police. All it can lead to is burnout among those people we rely on most.

Since I first publically expressed my concerns over the regional Local Area Command amalgamations, Police Minister Troy Grant labelled my actions as scaremongering. What Mr Grant does not know is that my comments were based on facts, and facts are what every Police officer rely upon. Mr Grant should know this as a former Police officer himself, but I fear that his selfish political aspirations cloud his judgement. He abandoned his former colleagues long ago.

The evidence to which I refer is correspondence from Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys to an individual who holds one of the aforementioned senior LAC positions that is under threat. The letter is evidence of the loss of and displacement of staff necessary to supporting frontline Police.  I have lost count of the number of Police who have contacted me to corroborate the evidence of LAC amalgamation, jobs losses and/or displacement. Unfortunately, none of these officers are able to go on the record because their jobs and entitlements may be under threat.  I have made attempts to speak with Deputy Commissioner Worboys, but I have been advised he will not speak to any politicians other than the Police Minister who no doubt has gagged the Deputy Commissioner. 

This New South Wales Police Force “re-engineering” will remain covert to the community until such time as the by-elections of Cootamundra and Murray have been decided.  Those electorates are subject to forced LAC amalgamations, and the Government is concerned that if voters there know the truth it will cost them an election. This information would prove beneficial for the voter to approve or disapprove of any re-engineering of Police in their communities.  

Curiously, this decision to cut staff coincides with the release of the Bradshaw review in which former Assistant Commissioner Bradshaw highlights the need to address rural crime.  It was recognised that an element of rural crime goes unreported to Police.  A prudent response to this would be to focus increased police resources towards rural New South Wales.  This can be achieved by increasing the authorised strength of sworn Police staff, and supported with adequate and experienced leadership, management and administration staff, both sworn and unsworn.

It is imperative for the New South Wales Police Force to build trust with the rural community, to forge relationships between Police and the people they serve.  The community need to get to know and have access to their local coppers, and establish trust.  To foster trust, police officers need to live in and be a part of the community they serve. Flying squads of temporary response units from out of town will do nothing to build these bridges.

Unfortunately, these amalgamations smack of cost saving measures, but at what cost?

It is time for Troy Grant to come clean and let the communities in the electorates of Cootamundra, Murray, Orange, Dubbo and regional New South Wales know about these forced Police Local Area Command amalgamations and staff cuts.

Philip Donato MP
Member for Orange