Police face burnout

Published in The Great Southern Star on June 4

THE Victorian Police Association is backing a community call for more police in the region, raising fears about “burnout” of local officers. 

Despite the call for more cops on the ground, the association is adopting a wait-and-see approach to a push for the Leongatha police station to be manned around the clock. 

Speaking to The Star, association secretary Wayne Gatt said Bass Coast and South Gippsland requires “a significant injection of members to bring them up to a safe level”. 

He believes a beefed-up workforce would help the force “adequately police their community and ensure that our members in the region do not suffer burnout because of the overwhelming workload they are forced to shoulder.” 

“Our members are frustrated and have been for some time,” he said.

“They are doing their best to keep the community safe, but they can’t be multiple places at once and until resourcing is properly addressed through the introduction of minimum staffing and service delivery standards, as advocated for by The Police Association and agreed to by the government after the 2018 state election, that will remain at the core of their frustration. 

“Frontline policing numbers are insufficient in many stations across the state. 

“In regional areas, the lack of police numbers is compounded by the greater distances between police stations, making it far more difficult to pool scarce resources to respond to crime.”
Mr Gatt said having more police was critical in ensuring the force’s ability to respond to incidents across the region. 

The hot-button issue has been given greater prominence in recent days, with concerns raised that Leongatha and other smaller towns have been left exposed late at night, particularly to break-ins. 

“Having more numbers in important, having them in the areas that require them most, is essential,” Mr Gatt said.

“Between Wonthaggi and the surrounding cluster stations, who are also experiencing long term absences, a large injection of members is required. 

“The Police Association Victoria raised this statewide shortage in the lead-up to the 2018 state election and lobbied heavily for minimum staffing and service delivery standards which would dictate the amount of police officers needed to adequately run 24-hour and 16-hour police stations, and ensure that police response times reflect the community and our members’ expectations. Currently, there is no model in place.

“The government has committed to implementing minimum staffing improvements.”

The Star recently ran a story on Leongatha resident Brendan Logan, who posted a Facebook poll asking whether the town needed a 24-hour station. 

Mr Logan, whose workplace was the site of two break-ins over Easter, believes thieves are targeting Leongatha because they knew there were gaps in police patrols. 

Ninety-one percent of respondents said they were in favour of the idea of a 24-hour station at Leongatha. 

One respondent commenting on The Star’s Facebook site said, “The perpetrators also know when there is no police presence in town. Makes us victims feel very nervous.” 

Another wrote of the “huge hole” between 24-hour police stations in the region.

Mr Gatt was more circumspect. 

“Once Wonthaggi and all surrounding stations in the division are staffed at the required capacity, a clearer picture will indicate whether additional operating hours are required,” he said.  

Meanwhile, a police spokesperson has also poured cold water on the plan. 

“Leongatha residents receive a 24-hour police response and can be assured that police’s number one priority is the safety and security of the community, including Korumburra and the wider South Gippsland Police Service Area,” he said. 

“There are no plans to alter the current service delivery model of the Leongatha police station. If anyone requires urgent police assistance, call Triple Zero.”