The Daily Advertiser: Riverina and Murray Police District mergers ‘impacted’ officer workloads, association claims

The Police Association of NSW has told the Industrial Relations Commission that a merger of the Wagga and Cootamundra local area commands “impacted on investigative functions” and increased the workload for sergeants.

The association made the claims as part of an application for pay increases that this week resulted in the commission awarding NSW Police a 1.75 per cent increase to salaries and salary-related allowances.

As part of the final submission for the claim about police workloads across NSW, the association provided a statement from Riverina Police District Detective Sergeant Phil Malligan.

Detective Sergeant Malligan noted both positive and negative aspects to the 2017 “re-engineering” that saw 34 local area commands replaced by 26 police districts, including the Riverina Police District.

“Senior positions were lost by two Detective Inspector positions becoming one. Also the Crime Management Unit within both local area commands become one unit,” Detective Sergeant Malligan stated.

“No additional detectives were allocated to the Riverina Police District.”

A NSW Police Force spokesperson said the amalgamations “focused on putting the community at the forefront of everything police do” and “involved moving resources to where they are most needed and driving down crime rates”.

“Workloads and resourcing needs of police districts are continually monitored and managed in accordance with operational needs,” the spokesperson said.

Detective Sergeant Malligan did credit the amalgamation with improving crime monitoring and serious investigations.

“This re-engineering of the commands has caused detective numbers to increase due to the larger geographical area of the new police district,” he stated.

“The new police district has created better monitoring of crime in neighbouring towns, ultimately impacting on cross police district criminal behaviour.

“Merging of the Wagga and Cootamundra [commands] … has also allowed for quicker response of additional detectives to these communities, when more serious investigations are undertaken.”

A NSW Police Force spokesperson said the amalgamation allowed the creation of “specialist teams, such as regional enforcement squads in regional NSW”.

Murray River Police District Sergeant Roger Campton stated the amalgamation “increased the workload of the sergeants though greater responsibility in the field and extra administration tasks”.

“Previously an inspector was available most days of the week and afternoons to attend the scene of significant incidents and take control,” Sergeant Campton stated.

“Now this responsibility falls back to the sergeants as the most senior officer at the scene. Sergeants have also been tasked to attend community meetings such as the mental health working group.”

The Industrial Relations Commissioners stated it was “difficult to reconcile” the association’s claim that the amalgamations resulted in a “general increase in the work value of police officers” when it also stated it “impacted particularly on Superintendents, Duty Officers and team leader Sergeants”.

The commissioners decided a police pay rise would be “fair and reasonable” but turned down the proposed 2.5 per cent.

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