Armidale-based Senior Constable Chris Jordan has won the support of Tenterfield Shire councillors in the NSW Police Association’s bid to divest officers of prisoner transport duties which pull the officers away from their stations.
Snr Cst Jordan said the issue was one of upmost importance in smaller centres like Tenterfield where the ‘thin blue line’ becomes the ultra-thin line when officers are out-of-town delivering prisoners. He said this happened recently in Tenterfield when the sole on-duty officer had to deliver four prisoners to Lismore, only to have Correction Services refuse to accept one on medical grounds (he was a diabetic).
It was only thanks to cooperation from Lismore Police that the Tenterfield officer didn’t have to wait with the prisoner at Lismore Base Hospital for medical clearance, which would have extended his six-hour absence even further.
He said officers on their day off can be called in for emergencies, but that they need their break from what can be a stressful job. The other alternative is backup from Glen Innes, 92 kilometres away.
In other scenarios prisoners can’t be handed over to other authorities in a timely manner because they are female or juvenile or both. As it is, prisoners often have to travel in a station’s unsuited first-response vehicle – possibly its only vehicle – for many hours.
“These vehicles are designed and are useful for short distance transportation of prisoners all within a city or town boundary, and under 80 kmph,” Snr Cst Jordan said.
“It is simply a ute with a plastic box on the back.
“In winter, particularly here in the New England, we are expected to transport prisoners in below-zero conditions. Ask anyone that has had to experience a trip in the back of our caged vehicles in winter. It’s freezing.
“We’re talking about real human beings, not animals.”