Sunday, February 04, 2007

NSW Police - Authorized & Real Numbers

The NSW Police Force has a legislated "authorized strength" of just over 15,200 officers. (Jan 07) Last week almost 800 new officers attested at Goulburn, and were appointed to Local Area Commands. Many might have been appointed to politically-sensitive areas. ie to areas where Government politicians are anxious for votes.

However, there have been suggestions that anything from 10%-20% of officers are not available at any given time because they are on: secondment to Ministers /Premier / ICAC; annual leave; long service leave; sick leave, including because of stress; restricted duties; or suspended from duty.

Successive NSW Governments have managed Police numbers by having few recruits join in the years following an election; then extremely large numbers attesting as Police Officers in the month or so before an election. This has been part of the "Law and Order" campaigns.

But this is not good management - it generates headlines and large numbers, and to that extent it suits the politicians in government; and opposition parties will promise large increases in numbers.

Proper, responsible management by the NSW government would see the following:
  • a more even intake and appointment of numbers, according to actual need, rather than the "feast or famine" model favoured by politicians. In this model, large numbers of police are appointed shortly before an election, to be announced, and re-announced by politicians for the benefit of politicians
  • the legislated strength of NSW Police increased by about 15%, so that actual available police in Local Area Commands are close to what they should be now. This would accommodate the numbers of officers not available for any of the reasons outlined above. (2nd paragraph)
Both of these suggestions will not only be good management, but should help to boost Police morale, because they would have numbers approaching what they should have, and because they would be less used as a political football near election times. Both of those are desirable outcomes.

Are the politicians only concerned with the politics of providing essential State services, or with proper, appropriate management by responsible government??

The Analyst