Remote policing across the NT has reached crisis point with many police leaving the service and stations being chronically understaffed, according to Senator Sam McMahon.
"Part of my role involves travelling to remote towns and communities and often talking with the local police in those locations," Senator McMahon said.
"One of the issues that is consistently brought up is lack of staff. This was an issue well before COVID, with one station being 40 officers down prior to being called on to provide additional troops for checkpoints."
Senator McMahon said a police officer from a remote station contacted her recently with a desperate message saying "everyone is tired and we have no relief. When I leave here at the end of the roster ... there is no one coming out".
The officer detailed the lack of staff at many stations including one particularly volatile station that had one officer just off probation by themselves for two days and another station with one officer by themselves for 31 days, Senator McMahon said.
"I have chosen not to make public the stations named to protect the identity of police officers providing details, but it is widespread." Senator McMahon said.
"Since putting a post up on social media I have been contacted by other officers pleading for assistance. It is extremely disappointing given the level of support for remote policing by the Federal Government.
"The Gunner Government has repeatedly said they're recruiting an additional 120 police officers, but the truth is they are not additional and worse than that, they're not even keeping up with the attrition rate."
She said the Federal Government had provided more than $20 million annually since 2015 for funding of police officers and $42 million last year for construction of remote police infrastructure.
A NT Government spokeswoman said federal funding for remote policing has been declining and ended completely in 2022.
The spokeswoman said the government was trying to get answers on the future of the funding.
The spokeswoman said the recruitment of the extra 120 officers was additional to attrition .
The government announced in July a $20 million plan to recruit an extra 131 police and support staff (and vehicles) to boost support in remote areas.
Breakdown of the extra 131 staff includes:
- 66 additional frontline Constables to help manage additional tasks brought on by COVID-19 while continuing to tackle youth crime and alcohol abuse;
- 30 Aboriginal Liaison Officers (ALO): to ensure stronger relationships between our police and indigenous communities;
- 10 Aboriginal Community Police Officers (ACPO), and;
- 25 Support Staff including policy and administrative support, college support and additional welfare support for officers.
Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Nicole Manison said under the current NT Government there were more police on the beat than ever before.
If Senator McMahon was serious about helping our police she needs to stand with us and fight to see the renewal of federal funding for remote policing which is due to expire in 2022, Ms Manison said.
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