REGIONAL cops are being dragged from frontline work to spend whole shifts transporting prisoners to court in a farcical situation they warn is leaving their towns severely vulnerable.
A dossier of internal complaints obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal how it is commonplace for officers in coastal towns such as Forster, Port Macquarie and Taree to spend up to seven hours transporting prisoners across the state for court appearances.
In one case, two officers from Kingscliff in the state’s far north spent an entire night shift transporting three prisoners. “We arrived back ... at 12 midnight,” an officer says in a complaint dated March last year.
“No police covered Kingscliff jobs while we were away and this can be proven as a missing person (alert) was being broadcast for four hours while we were away ... no police did the job for us. Not happy.”
Many other officers also vent their fury at how “stuffing around” can turn what are expected to be short trips into delays of four to six hours.
“On Wednesday (names removed) were the 2pm 8hr shift,” a complaint reads.
“The shift involved us doing a hospital guard before conveying that prisoner and another prisoner to Lismore.
“We arrived back with about an hour to do some (paperwork) ... this was a waste of our whole shift.” The officer warns taking their car “off the road” left the area’s “workload” on just “one vehicle”.
Another missive reads: “Quite apart from the $$$ value costs involved there is the cost of lost opportunities servicing the community; the impact of staff who have their good will and morale sapped by having to spend their shifts in a truck driving prisoners around (and not getting other work done like briefs etc).”
In the wake of the revelations, the NSW Police Association has delivered an ultimatum to the government threatening to stop prison transportation in some regional areas unless the problem is addressed.