Ballina Police Station.
Ballina Police Station. Marc Stapelberg

Ballina police shortage a 'risk' to community

POLICE have called for their superiors to stick to staffing agreements after just three officers were left covering a large area.

Police Association of NSW Ballina branch chairman, Sergeant Dave Longfield, said 24-hour police station had a First Response Policing Agreement to determine the number of police available to respond to calls at any given time.

He said this number hadn't increased since 1989, although the population of their area had tripled.

On Wednesday night, an officer called in sick and was not replaced.

While this was an isolated incident, Sgt Longfield said if there had been a major incident they would have been required to close the station.

He feared the lower-than-usual numbers had the potential to pose a risk to police or members of the public.

"The First Response Policing Agreement... sets out the minimum number of police that are required to meet the needs of the police and the community," he said.

Sgt Longfield said Ballina's FRPA required four officers to be available, including a supervisor, station officer and two officers on the road.

"Ballina, (on Wednesday) night, ran with three officers instead of four," he said.

"It's not ideal."

They were also covering a host of surrounding areas including Alstonville, Wardell and Evans Head.

He said Ballina's FRPA was "very small" and they had "argued for a long time that it's insufficient".

"The Ballina police response number is the same now as it was in 1989," he said.

"We've had the population triple."

Mr Longfield said he was calling for their district's management to adhere to the first response agreement, but also for NSW Police to have "an accurate and transparent staffing allocation model".

He said while the police district had received increased numbers in the past, that largely went towards Casino to allow its station to be staffed 24-hours.

While NSW Police hierarchy claimed the re-engineering of the organisation would benefit regional commands, Sgt Longfield said it had brought "no benefits" to his station.

Richmond Police District Acting Superintendent Bill McKenna said an extra officer would have been called in if required.

"At no stage was any member of the public or the police... in a position of risk," Acting Supt McKenna said.

"If an additional officer would have been required they would have been recalled."

One officer had remained on overtime for two hours until 8pm on Wednesday in an attempt to help cover the staffing shortage.

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