General News

8 May, 2024

Remote policing concerns

ONLY one police officer stationed at Georgetown is now trying to cover all of Etheridge Shire after the officer-in-charge at Forsayth for the past decade retired and there are no signs he will be replaced.

The Forsayth Police Station no longer has an officer in place, amidst claims it will close.
The Forsayth Police Station no longer has an officer in place, amidst claims it will close.

Ian Carroll retired last month and is now worried that he will not be replaced, leaving the officer at Georgetown, who is not a permanent placement, to manage all policing issues for a shire that is nearly 40,000sq km.

Etheridge Shire’s four main communities - Georgetown, Forsayth, Mt Surprise and Einasleigh – as well as the popular Cobbold Gorge area and the Kidston area are all now being serviced by one officer at Georgetown.

According to Mr Carroll, an officer is also usually stationed at Mt Surprise but due to staff shortages, is currently stationed at Mt Garnet – 140km from Forsayth.

Mr Carroll claims the Queensland Police Service will not fill his previous position and will close the Forsayth station – a move he says will reduce policing capacity in the vast area.

“The Georgetown officer is not permanent but rather a series of relieving officers from the Tablelands Patrol Group,” he said.

“Future QPS plans are to increase the staffing of Georgetown to a two-person station once suitable housing and station are constructed, neither of which has commenced.” 

He says facilities at Georgetown are akin to a “dog’s box” with no toilet facilities at the station. A new station and living quarters to accommodate the two officers would have to be built but he was unaware of any such plans being in place yet.

“Whereas the Forsayth station is a well-appointed residence and station combined and considered the best facility in the Far North QPS housing stock and sits empty.

“The QPS has not conducted any consultation nor been transparent to the community.

“Under the current situation, calls for service at Forsayth will now need to be responded to by Georgetown, 40km away, but that will be made difficult during wet season when access to Forsayth and Einasleigh can be cut by flooded causeways.”

Mr Carroll said while crime was not rife in the area, police were required to attend to various duties such as life-threatening situations, domestic violence, and serious and fatal traffic crashes.

“Calls for service in the past 12 months have included numerous calls to domestic violence matters, drug-related incidents involving assault, vehicle crashes, flood stranded vehicles, sudden deaths and theft,” he said.

Mr Carroll believes having a permanent presence in Forsayth also enables proactive policing such as school adopt a cop activity, pro-active road policing patrols, and weapon audits on surrounding cattle stations, as well as being able to cover Georgetown during that division’s officer absence for things like leave, training, and rest days. 

Mr Carroll has been backed in his views by Katter Australian Party leader Robbie Katter who is also the Member for the Traeger electorate in which Forsayth is located.

“It’s essential that communities like Forsayth have a police presence,” Mr Katter said.

“If this closure goes ahead, there will be a large area which will be further disadvantaged and underserviced. 

“I fundamentally oppose the closure of the Forsayth station.

“It’s easy for a bureaucrat in Brisbane to look at a map and think ‘oh that’s just down the road’, but have they ever been outside and seen the distances we travel?  I don’t think so!

“Police presence in our communities is a proven deterrent of crime – why does Forsayth deserve to lose their station?  They don’t.”

Mr Katter was also concerned about older caravan tourists who frequently used Forsayth as a destination, and who often needed additional assistance.

Mr Carroll says three things need to happen to deliver the policing presence the vast area deserves:

• The establishment of a new and more suitable police station in Georgetown

• Position the Officer In-Charge (Sergeant) with suitable housing in Georgetown, and

• Position the second officer (Senior Constable) in Forsayth where the officer could provide a policing presence, support and work with the Georgetown officer and provide the disaster management and urgent call for service capability.

“This model would provide a timelier and all year-round response capability, a regular and familiar police presence and an opportunity for future officers to perhaps help sustain our small state school,” Mr Carroll said.

The Express put all of Mr Carroll’s concerns to the Queensland Police Service (QPS) but they failed to specifically address the questions put to them – instead providing a statement.

“The QPS regularly reviews a range of issues including service demand, available resources, officer safety, emerging crime trends and population growth to ensure optimum service delivery across the Far North Police District,” the statement reads.

“While staffing figures will fluctuate from time to time, the QPS has sufficient staff and resources to deliver professional policing services to all residents and visitors, including those in remote parts of the state.

“The service is continuing to adopt an agile and borderless policing approach complimented with technology where officers are no longer restricted to a static location. The QPS continues to support officers and policing services in the Ethridge Shire as new policing approaches are considered.”


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