THE Barwon police command will be axed next year and the Oxley and New England areas supersized as part of the force’s major shake-up of country policing.
Under the plan, revealed by Fairfax Media last month, and announced by NSW Police on Thursday, the Oxley Command will stretch from Willow Tree in the south, west to Gwabegar and Wee Waa and up to Bellata, and east to Walcha.
Tamworth will remain the headquarters for the Oxley Police District – as it will be known in 2018 – and cover the same area but also take control of centres like Boggabri, Narrabri, Wee Waa, Quirindi and Pilliga.
The remaining sectors of Barwon will move into the larger New England Policing District which stretches from Uralla to the Queensland border and west to Moree and Mungindi.
It’s expected Armidale will remain the headquarters for the New England district, announced by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller and Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys on Thursday.
As part of the plan, local policing decisions will also be made by the new officer-in-charge model – a back-to-the-future plan for country policing, meaning an officer will be in charge of Tamworth, Gunnedah, Armidale, Moree and other towns like Inverell, Glen Innes and Narrabri.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the axing of Barwon was good news locally because the new model meant removing a layer of management, more boots on the ground and a return to “good old bush policing”.
“It’s actually going back to the way country policing used to be where the decisions on local police, and local resources, are made by the officer-in-charge on the ground,” he said.
“It’s the most senior officer in the town and that’s an officer who lives and works in the town, has their family living there, plays sport in the town, so they see day-in, day-out the issues affecting the community.”
It’s the most senior officer in the town and that’s an officer who lives and works in the town, has their family living there, plays sport in the town, so they see day-in, day-out the issues affecting the community.Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall
The changes are not expected to take effect until the first half of 2018, and could also see a shake-up of some of the force’s familiar faces in Oxley and New England either change roles or move on.
A regional enforcement squad, to be based in Tamworth, will work in with New England and Oxley detectives and the local Target Action Groups (TAG) to tackle violent or serious crime.
There are fears the new re-engineering of the force won’t result in extra resources on the ground locally, but Mr Marshall said he was briefed on the changes for the Northern Tablelands and it looked positive for extra numbers.
He said “anything that results in more boots on the ground, more officers on the frontline, is a good thing for local communities”.
Under the new policing district, New England will cover its existing communities including Uralla, Glen Innes, Tenterfield, and Inverell, as well as Moree, and north to the border, to take in towns like Bingara, Warialda and Boggabilla.
“This model allows for a more dynamic and flexible approach to investigations, proactive operations and focusing on important community issues like domestic and family violence and mid-level drug supply,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.