The union representing the state’s police officers has launched an online petition calling for staff vacancies across NSW – including the in the Hunter and Central Coast – to be filled.
The Police Association of NSW kicked-off its Back the Blue campaign on Monday, saying staff shortages meant “local police are reaching breaking point”.
According to figures released on Monday, there are 24 unfilled positions in Northern Region One – which includes six police districts on the Hunter and Central Coast.
There are seven vacancies in the Hunter Valley district, which includes Cessnock, Singleton and the Upper Hunter, and five in Port Stephens-Hunter, which stretches from Maitland to the coast. The figures showed there were two unfilled positions each in Newcastle City and Lake Macquarie.
While there were 194 vacancies outside the state capital, compared with 314 in the Sydney metro area, Northern Region One’s union executive Ian Allwood said regional areas were “affected on a different scale”.
“We have lower police numbers,” Mr Allwood said.
“Front line policing is affected even if we are down one officer – the rosters are really tightly constrained.”
As part of the campaign to draw support for the petition, the union took aim at the presence of “ghost cops” – a term used to describe police positions left empty when officers were tasked to join specialist investigation groups.
But Mr Allwood told the Newcastle Herald he did not believe the establishment of Strike Force Raptor North, the bikie-related crime squad operating in the Hunter, had affected the vacancy rate.
“All of these ghost cop positions mean fewer police on the beat doing the important work within our community,” he said.
“Local police are reaching breaking point. The government needs to urgently commit to not just addressing the backlog in our region, but to building the state’s policing capacity. These ghost cop positions need to be filled as a matter of priority. If they remain unfilled, communities like ours will be put at risk.”
When asked about the petition, a NSW Police spokesperson said Commissioner Mick Fuller had directed his deputies to formulate “an extensive strategic plan with a focus on maintaining a strong response to crime”.
“Public safety is a priority for NSW Police and this body of work will ensure we continue to grow the organisation to continue dealing with current and emerging crime,” the spokesperson said.
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