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Plan to cut beat police

Briefs

Cite as: July 2014 88 (07) LIJ, p.12

A police presence on our streets gives communities a sense of safety and must be retained when scarce police resources are allocated, LIV president Geoff Bowyer has said in response to plans to modernise Victoria Police.

Mr Bowyer’s comments follow the revelation by Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay that numbers of police on the streets would be reduced in an overhaul of the force over the next decade. It would involve a move away from local stations to specialist task forces.

In June, Mr Lay warned frontline police numbers in the city could be halved over the next decade. He said the force must modernise and build greater flexibility into the way it deployed its resources.

Mr Bowyer said the LIV would adopt a wait and see approach to the proposals, and recognised using scarce police resources was always a balancing act.

“While it is important to establish task forces to deal with crime hot spots such as family violence and drug crime, there must always be a police presence on our streets,” Mr Bowyer said.

“Physical police presence gives communities a sense of safety. Police are a positive influence in our communities and by engaging early with young or marginalised groups they can develop relationships which help prevent offences occurring.”

Mr Lay also told a parliamentary budget hearing that putting extra police into police stations did not always curb crime, putting him at odds with the Victoria Police Association. It wants an extra 1700 frontline officers and believes they must take priority.

Mr Bowyer said there must be enough police resources to allow a rapid response to crime.

“Particularly in our regional areas, we need police to be available to act quickly when there has been a serious incident. They can’t respond immediately if they are based in another region or even Melbourne,” he said.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells said the government supported Mr Lay in developing “crucial frontline task forces” to target family violence, organised crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, illicit drug manufacture and distribution, and road safety.

They were in addition to the more than 1500 additional police being deployed, he said.

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