Tweed police 'let down on increase in officers'

LOCAL police could be understaffed by as many as 60 officers, according to the Tweed Heads Police Association, who claim police numbers are not keeping up with the region's booming population growth.

Tweed Heads Police Association (THPA) spokesman Andrew Eppelstun said the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command (LAC) was falling well behind the state's police-to-population average, and that to meet the northern NSW ratio, Tweed Heads station would need another 20 police officers.

This week the Daily News asked Commissioner Scipione, who took up his new role on September 1, if he would keep his commitment to boost police numbers and resources to the Tweed/Byron LAC.

A spokesman for Commissioner Scipione replied via email. "Yes. The Commissioner has already allocated two extra highway patrol officers to the Tweed/Byron LAC," the spokesman said.

The Daily News asked if the Commissioner recognised the concerns of Tweed police officers. "Tweed/Byron LAC has individual issues, many of which are reflected across the 80 LACs in NSW Police. This has seen two additional highway patrol positions above the allocation given within NSW Police in February 2007," the%spokesman responded.

We also asked if the Commissioner still recognised the Tweed/Byron LAC as a "priority command".

"The Commissioner and government recognised the Tweed/Byron LAC as a priority command before the last state election. It is one of a number that have been recognised publicly. Each of the commands have been recognised as priority commands because of their individual requirements, but particularly issues involving alcohol and anti social behaviour," the spokesman said. But Mr Eppelstun said it sounds more like the Tweed/Byron LAC was "being put in a holding pattern until the next election".

"The broad undertakings promised prior to the state election have been put on the backburner, and it seems we've been forgotten about again," Mr Eppelstun said.

Local police have been fighting for more manpower and resources since before the NSW election in March, even threatening industrial action if their concerns were not met. Then-Acting Commissioner Andrew Scipione (now Commissioner) allocated two new highway patrol officers in an effort to stymie the threats.

"The average state police-to-population ratio is about one to 545," Mr Eppelstun said.

"In Tweed/Byron LAC, the ratio is more like one officer for every 780 heads of population. "To get the ratio back to a state average we would be looking for another 60 police."

The THPA was also told in March the Tweed/Byron LAC would be a priority command for additional resources, but after two allocations from the NSW Police Academy this year, Mr Eppelstun said the region was being "stiffed".

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