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Police policy "copied"

Wednesday, 23rd March, 2011

Having police stations understaffed was all too common across the electorate and completely unacceptable, according to the Member for Murray-Darling.

John Williams yesterday welcomed the NSW Coalition's election promise to recruit an extra 550 officers as part of their blitz on crime.

But Labor's candidate Neville Gasmier criticised the policy, questioned its timing and said it was a Labor policy "duplication".

The announcement was also welcomed by NSW Police Association western region executive member Robert Dunn.

Mr Dunn said a recent leaked report claimed the Barrier Local Area Command was "over strength" in terms of police numbers, a claim Mr Dunn refutes because of the large distances between police stations in the area..

"It's not something I would support.... we need to look at ways to draw people out to places like Broken Hill and Dareton.

"Under a Coalition Government, hopefully the Barrier Local Area Command (BLAC) would benefit."

Late last year it was revealed police stations in Tibooburra and Menindee had been left unmanned or short-staffed so that minimum police levels could be maintained in Broken Hill.

Mr Williams, who was yesterday in Urana meeting constituents ahead of Saturday's State election, said he will fight to get more police in local stations to avoid the shortfall in small townships.

"That's not a suitable situation at all - the idea that police are pulled out of a station in a remote area. 

"This happens over the electorate and causes a lot of grief."

Mr Williams said he had been informed that the local area command was 24 officers down as many were on sickness or long service leave.

He said the commitment to police in the local area command from a Labor Government was insufficient.

"It doesn't account for those police that are actually taken away and unable to fulfill their duties."

Mr Williams said the Coalition's election promise will "fill the gaps" and ensure active members of the police force are on the road.

"I have been extremely vocal on this issue as I am determined to see communities safer and I am pleased to see this announcement by the NSW Liberals and Nationals if elected into Government.

"The NSW Police Force is doing a fantastic job but, like most things, they are always in need of more resources.

"The NSW Liberals and Nationals are determined to give the police the powers, the resources and the backing they need to keep our community safe," Mr Williams said.

The NSW Coalition has promised to recruit an additional 550 police - taking the authorised strength of the Police Force to a record 16,356 Officers by June 2014; boost the Highway Patrol by 100 officers; buy an extra 131 vehicles, including 50 highway patrol cars; and purchase a new Counter Terrorism helicopter for police to respond immediately to threats across the State.

"A comprehensive audit of police allocation would be conducted if the NSW Liberals and Nationals win the March 26 election," Mr Williams said.

"The audit will review police numbers required in each region across the State and further increases in police numbers will be considered when the audit is completed.

"This announcement of more police for the State is welcomed and I will be advocating for additional police officer to be placed in the Barrier Local Area

Command and the Deniliquin Area Command - the two commands that are in the Murray-Darling."

Labor's candidate for the seat of Murray-Darling, Neville Gasmier, said Labor had promised an extra 360 police.

"They'll continue record investment in rural and regional police stations," he said.

"We will deliver 25 new highway patrol cars, invest an additional $100 million in new and additional fire stations and more firefighters.

"We will also invest $6.4 million to recruit and train young people to join the emergency services."

Mr Gasmier said people had to remember the biggest investment in police was made under a Labor Government and he criticised the Coalition for the timing of their announcement.

"Once again, as they did with the rebate in electricity, they've waited for the Labor policy to be released and then they've duplicated it."

Mr Gasmier said Labor was adopting a more "holistic" approach to regional community safety.

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