Battle lines have been drawn across the Cootamundra electorate after party candidates traded blows over police reform.
It comes months after NSW Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys initiated a state-wide ‘re-engineering’ study of police services and officer distribution in May.
Mr Worboys confirmed at the time that ‘new enforcement squads will be deployed to police regional areas’ and ‘work out of hubs’.
Among the proposed changes sits an amalgamation between the Cootamundra LAC and its counterpart in Wagga.
The enforcement squads are really around prevention and disruption which then will hopefully decrease the workload for the uniformed police and the other policeDeputy Commissioner Gary Worboys
The suggestion prompted Shooters Cootamundra candidate Matthew Stadtmiller to accuse the government on Wednesday of setting out to forcibly amalgamate the two police centres.
There’s no guarantee such a merger could occur as decisions are ongoing but some residents are already expressing concerns.
Cootamundra and Junee local Al Smith believes combining the LACs would leave towns and villages unmanned, resulting in longer response times.
“They (Coota police) be needed in Wagga to tackle the shortage of numbers and crime fighting.”
If Coota and Wagga LAC's are forced to amalgamate, we all know the towns will be without police officers for long periods of timeConcerned resident Al Smith
Nationals Party candidate Stephanie Cooke described such views the result of scaremongering in the community from the Shooters but said she would not support a merger if it didn’t guarantee increased police numbers.
Shadow Police Minister, Guy Zangari, went a step further and demanded answers from his counterpart, Troy Grant, on Thursday.
“The Minister for Police needs to end the speculation,” he said.
“He must come out and reassure communities by releasing information indicating which LACs will be closed or amalgamated and detail how many extra frontline Police Officers each Local Area Command is going to receive.”