Pigeons scramble about in the roof, offices double as locker rooms and evidence is piled up on the floor in Inverell’s overcrowded police station.
Built in 1960 for just 16 officers, member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall has renewed his call for a complete knockdown and rebuild of the building, which now houses 46 full-time police and staff. He estimated the cost of an appropriate “future-proofed” station to be around $9 million.
“We urgently need a brand new station – it is now critical,” Mr Marshall said.
“We are going to need more officers working at Inverell’s 24-hour police station in the coming years and they simply won’t fit. The current station is already literally overflowing and cannot cope.”
He is pushing for a funding allocation from the next state budget.
Inverell mayor Paul Harmon gave his adamant support to a complete knockdown and rebuild, and said there were fundamental infrastructure issues with the current building.
Chief Inspector Rowan O’Brien gave media a tour of the facility on Friday morning, showing offices doubling as locker rooms, a small meal room/kitchenette where up to 10-13 officers attempt to squeeze inside for daily briefings and a general duties muster room with only three computer terminals for approximately eight police men and women.
“We’ve only got the one soft interview room at the moment and considering that it’s not just general duties police that use that room, it’s also CAS, our child protection police as well as our own detectives – we just have a limited ability to obtain statements off victims and witnesses to crime,” he said.
He said that Aboriginal liaison officer Matthew Cutmore doesn’t have a permanent office in the space, and staff are currently unsure where a new school liaison police officer and domestic violence operative will be housed.
“The locker rooms, they’re just off the main muster area. We’ve got officers getting changed without doors on the locker room. We could certainly do a lot better than that,” he said.
One office doubles as the space for an audio visual court link, and there is just one toilet and shower for female staff. With one tiny legal room, personal visits to those in the holding cells are not facilitated.
“We only have three cells and two docks. We house juveniles, males, females and under protective service classification we could have strict protection, so all those people need to be kept separately. That can impact on our ability to how we facilitate that with only the three cells,” Chief Inspector O’Brien said.
“If someone’s compliant and they’re here for court, quite often they’ll be sitting in the dock throughout the duration they’re here at the police station.” The docks do not have toilet facilities.
Working in old police residences towards the back of the lot, daily interaction with the squad’s detectives is difficult.
Mr Marshall’s campaign for a new station began in 2015, and he says many of the issues he initially raised have only been temporarily alleviated, or have escalated.
“There is still only one interview room, a make-shift female locker room, the muster room is too small and people giving statements have to be walked past officers’ desks,” he said.
Mr Marshall has had meetings with the Police Minister Troy Grant, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys and civic leaders.
He also hosted Deputy Premier John Barilaro on a visit last October just after an allocation of $250,000 was provided for urgent repairs.
“But that was just a short term fix – a band aid applied over the top of many other old band aids,” Mr Marshall said.
“The work that they do is vital, and I think the least we can do is give them modern, professional facilities just like Armidale and just like Moree have already.”
Mr Marshall, Mr Harmon and Chief Inspector O’Brien agreed that plans for a new building must consider Inverell’s growing community.
“We certainly need to future proof. We need to take into consideration that in the next five years we could have a domestic violence unit here, a dog squad, increased highway patrol. We certainly need to have those facilities available, rather than adding little bits onto the police station here and there,” Chief Inspector O’Brien said.
Mr Marshall said he refuses to abandon the issue.
“I’ll keep campaigning until we get the result,” he said.