THE state government is considering a big shake-up of the structure of police commands as part of an effort to make officers more visible in regional areas and address concerns about empty stations.
In its initial response to a review conducted by former assistant commissioner Peter Parsons, the government has allocated three-fifths of new police graduates to regional and rural areas, as part of a strategy to boost commands from an ‘‘operational strength’’ of 80per cent to a benchmark of 90per cent.
The Northern Region would receive the largest allocation of 183 of more than 300 new officers for regional areas. That includes 25 for the Newcastle City local area command, 18 for Lake Macquarie local area command, 15 for Port Stephens, six for Hunter Valley and nine for the Central Hunter command.
The Parsons review made 22 recommendations for overhauling the service, including the scrapping of the local area command structure of managing police resources, which have been in place since the Wood Royal Commission.
But the government would release only the review’s recommendations yesterday, prompting criticism from the opposition.
Police Minister Mike Gallacher said the government had asked Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to respond to the report by May.
He said he had noted while in opposition the concerns of regional communities about empty police stations.
‘‘Centralised policing in these large local area commands is very good in terms of management of personnel, but the question is, ‘are they actually delivering the level of service [wanted] at a local level?’’’ Mr Gallacher said.
In the Hunter, that has included concerns about the high number of officers on sick leave from Newcastle, and demands on officers of the sprawling Lake Macquarie command. Mr Gallacher said a ‘‘hybrid’’ approach of different structures for Sydney and regional areas may be needed.
Labor leader John Robertson said the government should explain to people in western Sydney ‘‘why they are not putting more resources into those areas’’.