Working together to protect our future

Time to get our police back on the beat

During the opening speeches of the 2016 NTPA Annual Conference, the ongoing challenges of alcohol related harm in the Northern Territory (NT) remained front and centre.

There was a very good reason for this of course, at the time we were just a couple of weeks out from the NT Government election, and the issue of police resourcing and deployment was again the centre of attention.

The NT Police had just endured the end of a term in government which, as history shows, erased the trust of a large percentage of Territorians. No more so that our members, the Territorys police, who still wear the resourcing scars of the biggest political game of policing football seen for some time. Of course, we are still seeing the effects of this chequered part of our recent history, and the community continues to suffer the effects of a lack of police recruitment.

The mere fact policing numbers have been in decline over the last term of government, while crime continues to rise, is selling the Territory community short. During my opening address to conference last year, I raised the ongoing challenge our members continue to battle with, the use of our police at bottle shops putting extreme strain not just on the frontline, but on the entire police force.

With police numbers down by as much as 40 full time equivalent, and some 60 or more officers tied to bottle shops, the holes in the organisation are plain to see, and too large to fill. It is time for the alcohol industry in the NT to step up to the plate. It is time for the NT Labor government to put in place alcohol reform that goes beyond the comfort zone, and bring in all the players to the table. Its time to make them accountable.

While we continue to see narrowminded opinion that can only see police as the solution, the entire community will suffer. Why on earth should the tax payer of the NT continue to foot the bill for highly trained police to do the work of security at bottle shops?

A recent decision in Alice Springs to pull traffic patrols into bottle shop duties during a road traffic campaign week, and to roster youth engagement officers on bottle shop duties while youth crime escalates in our community, tells you where the priority lies. Our members are simply left scratching their head.

All the while, we have gaping holes in our police rosters, positions unable to be filled, members working extreme amounts of overtime to stop the leaking, all in a time where the wellbeing of officers is supposed to be at the forefront. Its time to make a statement, force the alcohol industry to sit at the table, and shoulder some of the responsibility for a community problem they have profiteered for decades on.

With the announcement of the expert panel to lead a review into the NT Alcohol Policies and Legislation in the coming months, now is the time to make a real difference, a generational change to reduce alcohol related harm throughout the NT, and importantly to get our police back on the beat.