POLICE Minister Michelle Roberts has hit back at the Opposition for saying the only reason the police stations such as Ellenbrook were open 24/7 was because of political interference.
After a report saying having the Ellenbrook Police Station and two others open 24hr a day every day of the week was a waste of resources Opposition police spokesman Peter Katsambanis said the community should be extremely concerned that policing in Western Australia was being influenced by politicians.
“There needs to be a separation of powers and the Minister needs to butt out,’’ he said.
Mrs Roberts, who is also the Midland MLA, said Mr Katsambanis was new to Western Australia, but perhaps if he had been around a bit longer and listened to the community, he would know the 24-hour Ellenbrook station was something residents wanted.
“In Victoria, where Mr Katsambanis is from, there are 90 police stations that are 24 hours,’’ she said.
“The operating hours of police stations are matters of policy, the entire community should be able to have a say in through their elected government, as to when they can access a police station.
“Having 24/7 stations, provides the community with certainty and ensures those needing a safe haven – those feeling threatened or in danger for whatever reason, can access police any time of the day or night.
“This is government thinking ahead.
“Ellenbrook is not going to get any smaller and we don’t want to be in the position the Liberals would have us in, of failing to meet the needs of the community and then forever playing catch up.
“This is about giving suburbs like Ellenbrook – one of the fastest growing suburbs in the state, the same policing service as places like Joondalup, Fremantle, Cannington and Midland, which have had 24-hour police stations for decades.
“This government’s commitment to make Ellenbrook 24/7 was in response to the public’s demand for greater access to policing services.
“The state government provided $6.5million to the WA Police force, to deliver the commitment, which included the recruitment of 13 additional officers.
“Under the former Liberal Government, many in the community were disturbed that their local police station was closing at 4pm in the afternoon.
“Those officers on duty in the station at night are able to prepare prosecution briefs, catch up on paper work and complete online training.
“Following Mr Katsambanis’s logic does he also want to close all other 24 hour police stations, including central Perth, Midland, Joondalup and Fremantle?”
Mr Katsambanis said Labor had gone to the election with a policy to interfere with the decision making of the police commissioner and micro manage operations to score cheap political points.
He said Labor’s policy to require Ellenbrook and the other two police stations to open 24 hours a day had been found to be a dud, expensive, populist policy, that did not improve community safety.
A Freedom of Information document had shown that on most nights, no one was going to the police stations after midnight.
“It was simply an expensive political stunt by Labor to win votes,’’ he said.
“The public want a more visible police presence patrolling our streets and our suburbs.
“Despite sounding like a good idea, manning police stations 24 hours a day ties turns police officers into desk jockeys, reduces the number of police able to respond to emergencies and makes our community less safe.
“Front line policing services have been taken off the streets and put behind desks, and this is all because of the meddling by the Police Minister into the day to day operations of the police service, which should be the responsibility of the police commissioner.
“She needs to advise the commissioner her political stunt was a mistake and he is free to reverse the decision and make operational decisions based on best practice and he is not duty bound to implement political promises that are ineffective, costly and do not improve public safety,’’ he said.
By Anita McInnes