NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley grilled over unattended signs outside police stations

NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley has said the government does not have an obligation for police stations to be manned for 24 hours a day, with her response being criticised as “underwhelming”.

During budget estimates, Ms Catley was presented with a sign which showed a “Temporarily Unattended” sign placed outside Wetherill Park Police station in western Sydney, which has been on display since November.

In the same month last year, a similar sign was placed outside Paddington Police Station which said the station had been “closed,” directing people to Kings Cross Police Station about 2.8km away, as reported by The Daily Telegraph.

Following media reports, NSW Police issued a statement saying the station would “remain operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.

The signs come as the state is facing a workforce shortage of about 1500 staff, with the Police Association of NSW (PANSW) expected to fight for higher pay once the award expires on June 30.

Facing a grilling from Liberal MP Susan Carter, Ms Catley said in terms of community safety, the government did not have an “obligation” to taxpayers for police stations to be open all hours.

“I don’t accept that a building offers safety necessarily,” she said.

“There’s a phone number on here, which is what I’d expect, there is the address on here for Fairfield Police Station, and the police have advised me that the resources are better used in those neighbouring police stations.”

In regards to the Wetherill Park station, Ms Catley said she had been informed by NSW Police that it was an internal decision that the “best use of police resources are having them at those surrounding police stations not at Wetherill Park,” which was informed by data.

“I take that advice from the police, they’re the experts after all,” she said.

She added there were “ordinarily” two officers staffed at the Wetherill Park, with officers on patrol when not present at the station.

“As I’ve described every police car is a police station and they’re actually out patrolling which is what we want,” she said.

“We want people and that visibility is excellent as well.”

However, her response has been criticised by the Opposition police spokesman Paul Toole as being “underwhelming”.

“With Wetherill Park, I’ve had people contacted me to say they’ve rung the station and they’ve sat on hold for 15 minutes before they even got an answer or they’ve just hung up,” he said.

“This sends the wrong message to those communities that they have the support and that criminal activity has been dealt with in a timely manner.”

He said the issue of unattended police stations was an even bigger issue in regional communities where police have been left feeling burnt out, and called on the minister to back in a pay increase for the work force.

“It’s worse in regional NSW where we have less 24-hour stations in our communities. Criminal activity is rife in the regions right now, and is escalating to a whole new level,” he said.

The government is in negotiations with the PANSW for increased pay and better conditions.

Ms Catley was asked if they will be able to secure an increase comparable to historic pay deals secured by teachers (of up to 12 per cent) and paramedics (on average of 25 per cent).

She said good faith bargaining remained ongoing.

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