The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have locked horns with Minister for Police Troy grant after the former cried foul of ‘bullying’ tactics from the NSW Police Force administration ahead of the Cootamundra by-election.
It comes after an awkward media mishap saw the Shooters ‘police officer insider’, who was reportedly willing to breach police protocol and speak publicly against LAC mergers, fail to front media on Friday morning.
A Cootamundra LAC spokesperson told the Herald that, after further consideration, the officer in question chose not to front the media.
However the Shooters have claimed the officer was ‘gagged’ from speaking to them.
“I’m concerned of the possibility that bullying and intimidation tactics by the Government have been used to stop police officers from speaking out about this cost-cutting exercise,” Shooters candidate Matthew Stadtmiller said.
In a statement released later that day, Mr Stadtmiller claimed the officer had offered another statement to be read on his behalf.
“I have wanted to speak out against the forced amalgamation of Cootamundra LAC and Wagga Wagga LAC and every effort is being made to keep me quiet," the statement allegedly reads.
"I'm concerned that the service given now by the Cootamundra Local Area Command will be affected.
"What gets to me most is that the details of this whole plan has [sic] been deliberately hidden from people until after tomorrow's election."
In response, NSW Minister for Police Troy Grant issued a blistering spray against the minor party and their “scaremongering” tactics.
“For too long the Shooters have been spinning, smearing and slandering,” he said
“I will not stand by and let this one-issue party tear apart the reputation of hard-working, innocent and effective community representatives.
“We cannot sit idly by and let them continue to peddle rumours and lies.”
Mr Grant denied suggestions of job cuts, saying the re-engineering of local area commands was an important step towards putting “boots on the ground” in rural communities.
“Policing in the country is different to policing in the city, and the NSW Police Force's approach to reviewing the organisation has recognised this,” he said.
“As such, the NSW Police Force is looking at two very different structures for Metropolitan Sydney and Regional NSW.
“This consultation is an important process and cannot be rushed.”