POLICE CRISIS TALKS
By SAMANTHA HEALY
TWO of the state's top cops fly in to the Tweed today for crisis talks aimed at staving off industrial action threatened by local police officers.
NSW Deputy Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Traffic Service Commander John Hartley will meet with members of the Tweed Heads Police Association (THPA) at lunchtime.
Police numbers and an alleged shortage of resources on the Tweed will be the hot topics of discussion.
In particular, the Tweed highway patrol is likely to be a main focus of the talks after it was revealed to the Daily News that officer numbers have not been increased since 1983.
On Tuesday night dozens of Tweed Heads police officers crowded into the Ivory Hotel to voice their concerns about their safety and a lack of resources being allocated to the region.
During the heated meeting local highway patrol officers threatened industrial action with a plan to cease issuing traffic infringement notices and refusing to stage random breath tests from 6pm today.
They wanted to "hit the pollies in the hip pocket", they said.
An ultimatum was given to Tweed MP Neville Newell and the NSW government that if the THPA and local police demands were not met by 6.01pm action would be taken.
THPA spokesman Andrew Eppelstun, who was gagged from speaking to the media for most of yesterday morning, said late yesterday it was a positive move in the right direction for local police.
"It's the wheel that squeaks that gets the oil," Mr Eppelstun said.
"While there is no written guarantee yet it is a positive thing.
"There is a good chance that we will get something."
Mr Eppelstun said any industrial action by local police would now be put on hold until after the meeting.
"They have to give us an olive branch," Mr Eppelstun said.
"If they don't we will look at holding another meeting, prob- ably on Monday, to further dis- cuss our options."
Mr Eppelstun did not rule out the option of industrial action if a satisfactory guarantee for more police and resources was not given by Monday.
NSW Police Minister John Watkins' office issued a statement yesterday saying the Tweed/ Byron Local Area Command had been identified as one of 26 targeted LAC's which would receive additional officers.
The minister's office did not provide the Daily News with an answer as to why the Tweed had not received an increase in highway patrol strength in 23 years despite the region's shocking drink-driving statistics.
While Mr Newell has not been invited to today's talks he said he too was seeking an explanation as to why the Tweed had not received an allocation of highway patrol officers -? Byron Bay received only one extra officer ? and that he supported the demands made by the THPA on Tuesday.