Incentives need to lure police

THE south-west’s severe shortage of police officers is the result of a flawed regional district allowance and incentive scheme, Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray said yesterday.

The shadow minister for the south-west has joined the argument for more police in the region.

Current advice is that Collie needs two more police officers, Bunbury needs 10 and Australind three

“A number of smaller police stations throughout the south-west are also struggling to find staff,” Mr Murray said,

Collie has needed more police for years. Back in 2007 the WA Police Union said Collie officers were struggling with workloads because of a serious shortage of police in the town.

Union officer Mike Dean (since retired) said Collie needed at least five more officers. It had only 15 officers to serve 9000-plus people.

Narrogin had 20 officers, though its population was only half that of Collie.

Collie Police Station’s officer-in-charge, Snr Sgt Rod Boehm, last month said the station still had 15 full-time employees and was looking to fill vacancies caused by the resignation of two officers.

This week he said he had received no applications.

Young officers with homes in Perth would be paying one per cent more on their mortgages if they left their homes to take country postings, Snr Sgt Rod Boehm said.

They would be paying rent away from their homes and they did not get the $30,000-plus allowances in the south-west that were paid for service in the north of the state. “It’s big dollars,” Snr Sgt Rod Boehm said.

Mr Murray said the government’s district allowance scheme provided $30,000 to $40,000 extra income and guaranteed housing for officers in the state’s north but police officers in the south missed out.

“I’m concerned that law and order is being compromised because the current government is so focussed on service provision in the north of this state,” Mr Murray said.

“Why would a police officer take up a position in Collie when he or she is not provided with a government house, plus offered a much lower salary than those officers taking up vacancies above the 26th parallel?”

District allowances were overhauled in 2010 and the government says the number and quality of applicants applying for north-west vacancies has dramatically improved.

“There seems to be a steady flow of police officers away from the south-west since these changes came into place and now we are in a situation where there is severe undermanning at local police stations,” Mr Murray said.

Police Minister Liza Harvey said: “The number of police officers working in various police districts fluctuates for a range of reasons, including weekly leave, training courses, other paid leave and sick leave, and officers transferring to and from districts.”

On August 2, there were 10 full-time equivalent (FTE) vacancies in the South West Police District (4.3 per cent of total FTE).

“While WA Police do not consider this amount of vacancies an unacceptably high number or one that would pose any significant operational impact, I will be closely monitoring the situation and this is an issue I will be raising with the Police Commissioner,” she said.