Volunteer cops plan rejected

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
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Radical plans for a civilian police force to patrol Hedland’s streets in a bid to reduce alcohol-related harm in the community have been floated by the town’s mayor.

Camilo Blanco wants South Hedland Police Station to open its doors to civilian volunteers after Hedland hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons last week.

But Police Minister Liza Harvey and Pilbara District police Acting Superintendent Neville Dockery said they were not looking at implementing such a program.

Senior Sergeant Dean Snashall told the Telegraph last week a catalogue of incidents between December 13 and 23, including a single night with more than 30 call-outs were mostly related to alcohol abuse. They included the stabbing of a 17-year-old girl, allegedly by an intoxicated 14-year-old, and reports of an unconscious, intoxicated, nude female found with an unconscious nine-year-old near her and several children aged under 10 trying to provide first aid.

The takeaway alcohol management system and the cashless welfare card have been touted as solutions to reducing harm.

The idea of civilian police officers is the latest possible measure from the outspoken Mr Blanco, who argues “something has to be done”.

He said he had taken inspiration from a British model whereby members of the public — police community support officers — assist police in their daily duties.

“The police are definitely understaffed, it’s clear to see,” Mr Blanco said. “Thirty years ago it was the same — we need a new approach.

“What we need to do is adopt the UK model.”

Mr Blanco said local people would be recruited, similar to the way St John Ambulance assists paramedics with trained local volunteers. He said the program had been so successful in Britain it had been “dialled back”.

Mr Blanco said he also believed having a civilian program would make officers more accountable.

But Mrs Harvey said the suggestion would not be acted on at a State Government level.

“The State Government will not be deputising members of the public to do the work of police,” she said.

Acting Supt. Dockery said the suggestion was not something WA Police were looking at and he was confident in staff at South Hedland Police Station.

WA Police Union acting president Brandon Shortland said policing required highly trained and skilled professionals to enforce the law.

“Our police need to be fully trained, highly qualified and possess the requisite knowledge to make split-second life-or-death decisions; anything else is just second-tier policing and a cost-cutting exercise,” he said.

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