New roles relieve police

Latrobe Acting Inspector Peter Watson says extra police are on the beat following the roll-out of 25 police custody officers and supervisors across the region in the past 18 months.

The PCOs, who have been attached to Morwell Police Station, will be responsible for managing prisoners in custody and ensuring their welfare is up to scratch.

Police say it will take the pressure off uniform members across the Valley and put cops into proactive roles.

Sworn members have previously been rostered for the duty but Acting Inspector Watson said the recent state government roll-out would give police a chance to channel their resources on the ground.

“We’ve been able to put out a warrants and files’ crew to deal with all the files that come in, serving intervention orders and that sort of stuff which ultimately frees up the [divisional] van from doing those sort of jobs,” he said.

“We’ve also given positions to other stations within the Valley and specialist positions to units such as the [Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team].”

The unsworn custody officers will also perform roles such as court escorts and hospital guards for prisoners who are in police custody.

The custody officers spend eight weeks at the police academy, including on-the-job training at a nominated police station.

“It’s got a two-fold effect; you’ve got more police to do other jobs and focus on other areas but also, we’ve got dedicated people to look after custody,” Acting Inspector Watson said.

“So they become experts in that field rather than having police come in ad hoc to fill in.”

The roll-out was part of a $148.6 million pledge by the state government in the 2015-16 state budget which has put more than 400 PCOs in stations across Victoria.

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the PCOs would play a central role in managing prisoners and freeing up police resources so they can “focus on what they do best – preventing crime, catching criminals, reducing harm and keeping more communities across Gippsland safe,” Ms Shing said.

“Wherever possible police custody officers have been recruited from within the local communities they serve, which is also creating new jobs and a stepping stone into a career into a career in the policing and justice sector.

“While others run misleading commentary about public safety, that’s based on achieving nothing more than a cheap headline in an election year, we are focused on providing our sworn and unsworn officers with the resources and support that they need to keep our growing communities safe now and into the future.”