The cops ‘too old’ to tackle young criminals

THE Tweed's top cop says his officers are getting a bit old to be tackling young drugged-up crims.

As debate rages about police numbers ahead of next year's NSW election, Superintendent Wayne Starling said the biggest issue was not the number of police, but their age.

Supt Starling said his officers were choosing to forgo promotion in other areas to grow old in the Tweed.

NSW Police Tweed Byron Local Area Command Superintendent Wayne Starling said he didn’t have a problem with his number of officers but it was the age of the officers. Picture Mike Batterham
NSW Police Tweed Byron Local Area Command Superintendent Wayne Starling said he didn’t have a problem with his number of officers but it was the age of the officers. Picture Mike Batterham

"The average age of our officers in the Tweed Byron Police Area Command is 44 so they get injured far more easily and they don't recover as quickly as you get older," he said.

"For example, three of my duty officers are injured at the moment. One has a dislocated bicep and another has an injured foot.

"That's the challenge we have, police are in a contact sport - they are out wrestling with people."

Police in Tweed are battling a spate of property crimes and this week the region was ranked the eighth worst ice hotspot in NSW.

State member for Tweed Mr Geoff Provest said his rival Craig Elliot was misleading the community with his figures on police numbers.
State member for Tweed Mr Geoff Provest said his rival Craig Elliot was misleading the community with his figures on police numbers.

In the lead up to the March election, the Coalition and Labor have been fighting over police resources in the region.

Labor's Craig Elliot says the area needs more. Tweed MP Geoff Provest disagrees.

Mr Elliot said there were fewer police in the Tweed now than in February 2012 when there was 198 because of cuts under the NSW Liberal-National government.

Mr Provest said Mr Elliot was misleading the community on police numbers.

"The current actual strength in the region is 181 plus 19 traffic and highway patrol

officers, bringing the total to 200," he said. "In the past few months the Tweed has received five probationary constables, an additional six general duty positions and two criminal investigation positions.''

Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Wayne Starling talks to some of the drowning victim’s friends at Fingal Head Lighthouse, Fingal Head in February.
Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Wayne Starling talks to some of the drowning victim’s friends at Fingal Head Lighthouse, Fingal Head in February.

Supt Starling said keeping officers in their uniforms and fit enough to carry weapons was the problem.

He said nine of his people were on restricted duties, eight on maternity and other extended leave and more than 30 couldn't strap on a gun because of injuries.

As a result of the injuries Supt Starling has to juggle rosters and get other officers to do overtime to meet minimum policing requirements.

"That probably creates more stress on the police who turn up for work because of the increased workload," he said.

"They have an increased workload because people are off sick."

Tweed/Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling (centre) with NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and other officers at the opening of the new Tweed Heads Police Station on Friday, September 8 last year.
Tweed/Byron LAC Superintendent Wayne Starling (centre) with NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and other officers at the opening of the new Tweed Heads Police Station on Friday, September 8 last year.

He said the age profile of the police force was a result of living in a wonderful location.

"It is one of the nicest places to live in New South Wales which means people transfer here because they love living in our community," he said.

"Many police don't seek promotion they seek lifestyle, so they finally achieve that when they move here and they stay here.

"That means they are out in the truck day in and day out, dealing with young mentally disturbed or drug-affected people and that's how they sustain the injuries."

He said the only solution to the older police force problem would be to relocate officers but that would be punishing officers for getting injured while protecting their community.

Supt Starling took control of the Tweed Byron Local Area Command in 2016 and said he would focus on staffing levels.

He said at the time his goal was to support officers with psychological issues back into the workplace and to service the community again.

"We have been really successful with that because we have different programs for them, psychiatrists available and so much more to offer police today than in the past," he said.

"We are also trying to create that culture if you're not well you put your hand up and ask for help.

"A lot of the time our police see things that nobody should ever see and in the past we would hide those things or wouldn't get the treatment and the problem would fester."



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