The Hamilton Spectator – August 06, 2015
SINGLE-officer police stations are the “lifeblood” of smaller regional communities and must be retained, according to Victorian shadow police minister Edward O’Donohue.
Mr O’Donohue visited Macarthur police station last week with South West Coast MP Denis Napthine as part of a tour of local police operations.
“We, as a Coalition, strongly believe in the value of single-member stations,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“They are integral to the lifeblood of communities and we want to make sure that they are preserved, that they stay open and that they continue to be central to the life and heart of so many communities in Victoria.”
Mr O’Donohue accused the State Government of failing to match the Coalition’s police recruiting drive and creating a shortage of officers for regional Victoria.
“When we were in government we recruited 1900 additional police, the largest single additional recruitment of police in Victoria Police’s history,” he said.
“Labor has turned off the tap. The police academy is operating at half strength. Labor has made no commitment to additional police.”
Police Minister Wade Noonan in response accused Mr O’Donohue of running a scare campaign during his visit to the south-west and said police offer allocations were a matter for the Chief Commissioner.
Under the previous Coalition State Government, Victoria Police released a ‘blue paper’ policy discussion document that suggested smaller police stations would lose their full-time officers.
As a replacement, ‘super stations’ would be created to send roving officers to where they were needed.
The previous and current state governments have played down the ‘blue paper’ but The Spectator understands that Victoria Police has continued to survey officers for their thoughts on the ‘super station’ model.
Mr O’Donohue said police ‘hubs’ could help supplement single-officer stations, but should not replace them.
“A larger hub can always provide reinforcement, can always work with these sort of stations (Macarthur), but it can’t
replace, in our view, the work that these sort of places do,” he said.
Dr Napthine also said he was committed to keeping single-officer stations.
“The frontline of community safety, and community confidence, is the local police station and the local officer,” he said.
“That’s got to be maintained, protected and reinforced.”
Dr Napthine also welcomed amendments to a recent ‘two-up’ police safety policy that aimed to eliminate instances of police officers working alone.
The new policy was implemented in response to a heightened terror alert level and several terrorism-related incidents, but exemptions were added because of the burden placed on regional police stations.
“What we want is the opportunity for experienced single officer stations to operate with common sense; priority on safety for themselves but at the same time having the flexibility to respond as required in the community,” Dr Napthine said.
“Safety of officers must be the highest priority, but you can also achieve that with common sense.”