Working together to protect our future
 
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Facing the Reality

As yet another year closes out, political pressure and mixed messages from some senior executive, continue to plague our officers both in the urban and remote areas.

As I write this article, it is five years to the day since I began with the NT Police Association, and it is fair to say the landscape, both politically and from a senior executive level, has changed dramatically. So where do we sit now, are we advancing or regressing?

Lets start with the very plain and simple matter of police numbers. Figures obtained through the NTPFES Annual Reports, reveal the 2012/2013 year closed with 1451.08 FTE sworn police and police auxiliaries. The year 2016/2017 shows a total of 1403.26 FTE sworn police and police auxiliaries, an overall reduction of 47.82 FTE positions. Almost 50 less police and police auxiliaries to fill our rosters.

Couple this with the ongoing resolve by government and the Commissioner to curtail to community pressure by retaining police at bottle shops, and you can double that figure, to 100 less police patrolling our streets, working in crime, traffic, youth crime, and engaging with ALL aspects of our community.

In the leadup to the Territory election of August 2016, our police were asked to be patient, the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) was promised but it will take a year, and it did. Now it is in, our officers continue to be asked to undertake questionable duties outside bottle shops, to the determinant of their safety, and remote officers safety.

It can no longer be denied that the pressure of community expectation is put well ahead of that of our own officers, who are being left to fend for themselves at bottle shops, and in remote locations. This disgraceful situation is one which is now impacting on the desire of long term police to remain in Alice Springs, and in the police force generally. This was clearly evident at a recent meeting in Alice Springs attended by almost 60 officers.

It should be noted the government has implemented a recruiting plan to bring on extra officers, but this will be some time away before it has a real affect.

The here and now must be addressed, the government cannot expect police to carry the load of poor planning and social order issues, it must allow police to be police, and insist on other government departments pulling their weight.

In the five years since joining the NTPA, I have had the opportunity to regularly visit both major and remote stations and speak first hand to members, gauging their morale generally. It is disappointing to see morale on the decline, and at a low point I have not seen for a considerably long time. So why is this the case?

It is clear that when speaking with members, they feel disempowered and at the beck and call of government pressure, not allowed to simply do their job. Furthermore, there is no real desire to want to work remotely, not in the current environment anyway. With a lack of relief, lack of full staffing and lack of opportunities to have a respectable amount of work / life balance, the appeal has diminished. This was supported in the NTPA survey of members in the lead up to Consent Agreement negotiations.

This, together with ongoing poor management of workplace related complaints, has resulted in morale being at dangerously low levels. So, what can be done?

It is time to face the reality, it is time for government and the Commissioner to put the police first, listen to their concerns, and make the admission to the public that there are not enough boots on the ground to do what is being asked of them. It is time for urgency to be placed on recommendations out of the Alcohol review, and get our police back doing police work, and shine the spotlight on governments own Licencing arm, and the alcohol industry, to control their own, and not leave it on the shoulders of understaffed police.

It is time to listen and respond to the reality of what our officers are facing today. There can be no other choice.

THANK YOU

As we close out the year, I would like to thank the hard-working staff of the NTPA, together with our Executive and Regional Delegates. In a year which has proved challenging for a variety of reasons, our staff, Executive and Delegates continue to work tirelessly to improve your workplace conditions and advocate for better outcomes.

I also thank our Communications Officer, Georgina Murphy, who after three years
with the NTPA has moved on to another exciting opportunity here in the NT. As our first ever communications officer, Georgina made the role her own and has forged the path for a better reach with our members and long-term partners. Good luck Georgina in your new role, and Happy Monday!

Finally thank you to all members and their families for your hard work protecting our community. The sacrifice you all make should never be underestimated and this will again be the case when some of you will be working over the festive season. I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and prosperous 2018.