The Local Area Command model of policing has officially been retired, and the new system of Police Districts has been rolled out.
Narrandera now has a Chief Inspector, John Wadsworth, and the duties and structure of local policing has changed dramatically.
“My role is that of officer in charge of Leeton, with the responsibility for Narrandera,” explained Chief Inspector Wadsworth. “I will make a point of having both towns as equal. It’s my reporting area and I’m in charge of both towns so it’s not a matter of me favouring one over another, because if one fails, I fail.
“I want to see community engagement with people if they have issues. I want to be open and accessible.”
The new model of policing will make individual police stations more autonomous, rather than the LAC model which saw more centralised decision-making.
“With the old local area command model, you’d have overarching responsibilities across the entire command, with one of those being for a geographic area.
“You now have an officer in charge, who is the direct person in charge of those places,” Inspector Wadsworth said. “They make or break the place. They’ve got to do that through community engagements, through better policing ideas, and also we’ve got to be open to the community; what they want of their police.
“If the community want to see more patrols of a certain area, if they want to see more foot patrols, that’s something I need to know.”
Inspector Wadsworth talked about frustrations the community sometimes had with police, and said it was a matter of police trying to be more accessible, but also public education and understanding.
“Sometimes people ring up the police station at Narrandera and there’s frustration because the call gets put through to somewhere else.
“That is something we can address in part, but if you’ve got, say, a domestic assault, that ties up the police resources; you need a custody manager, a person taking a statement and a charging officer, and that usually chews up all the resources.
“That can mean that we can’t take our eyes off the ball and take phone calls. There are times that the phone will be diverted, and the front station will be shut. “There’s so much time completing a domestic charge, and it takes up so many resources, but it’s why we’ve got to get in and use our skills to try and address alcohol related violence, domestic violence.
“The better we can deal with it on a ground level, and if the education’s there it stops it.”
Inspector Wadsworth also addressed the ‘Coffee with a Cop’ event which occurred last week in Leeton, although not in Narrandera.
“The Coffee with a Cop is a state-wide initiative. I admit, I came back from Leeton, it was my first day. It puts the image across that Narrandera missed out.
“I want to stress to the people of Narrandera it was just that on the day, Leeton was the place that was chosen.
“We’ve had a lot of events, but now as officer in charge f both areas, I can assure you that it’s not the case that Leeton is the big brother and Narrandera is the little brother. They are both equal.
“Hopefully from here on in, you’ll see more equal community engagement.
“I’ve just spoken to Council, to George Cowan and Neville Kschenka, in terms of making the coffee with a cop happening over there, and I will make amends by having something happen in Narrandera.”