THE $16.3 million police station about to be opened at Somerville is a debacle, according to a former detective.
Former CIB chief David Killin was speaking at a Saturday morning public meeting at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Somerville, along with Police Association officers and local MPs.
“To move all the detectives and the traffic police to Somerville and lock the station to the public, purely so the station has people in it and gives the appearance of being used, is a debacle,” Mr Killin said.
“It is like something out of Yes Minister. A very brave decision, as Sir Humphrey would say.”
His claims were backed by Liberal MPs Neale Burgess and Greg Hunt.
Mr Hunt, MP for Flinders, acknowledged to the crowd of about 100 that the police station was a state issue, but said he had lobbied alongside state MP for Hastings Mr Burgess to bring the police station to Somerville.
Police Minister Wade Noonan has previously said the building’s staffing was a matter for Acting Chief Commissioner Tim Cartwright – not his department.
“It’s not a political decision – it’s a decision of the chief commissioner.”
Mr Burgess said there were plans to hold more public meetings, including at Parliament House.
Mr Killin said the issue “has many factors the public are entitled to know and be angry about”.
People needing detectives or traffic police in busy summer traffic on the southern peninsula would face an hour-long wait.
He said police cars would have to set off from Somerville “with huge travel times to work certain areas and with lost local knowledge”.
“That should fix the crime rate and traffic figures …”
The new station, on the corner of Eramosa Rd West and Coolart Rd, is due to open on Wednesday 30 September.
Mr Killen was for 30 years officer-in-charge of Rosebud and Mornington CIBs, with relieving duties at Hastings over 42 years’ service.
“I am also a local resident, so I think I qualify as being able to say things as they really exist,” he said.
He said the Somerville station was designed to support local people but will not be a working police station “despite what senior officers say”.
“It has no value to local residents who will be turned away if they present there looking for assistance,” he said. “It is the first police station to be built in Victoria that won’t really be one.”
Mr Killen said the station was initially to be manned by senior police – but they refused to go there. This prompted the decision to take CIB and traffic officers from Rosebud, Mornington and Hastings and so fill the station with police.
“Never underestimate the importance of the public knowing a police member to give that important bit of information that will solve a crime,” he said.
“Police are only as good as the public they represent. People like to speak to someone they know and trust if giving information.
“The plain facts are that there are not enough police today and many members I have known for years are frustrated, with many now facing long travel times to even get to Somerville.
“From experience I know that this is an unworkable situation. It is no use the public complaining of long wait times for police attendance if they don’t speak out now.”
Mr Hunt told the meeting the town “deserves the police station it was promised. It deserves the police station that was built”.
“But it is an absurdity that, after $16 million has been spent building a station, there will be no public access and no local police.”
Mr Burgess slammed the term “police building” for the station, which he says was promised as a police station in the general sense of the word: with a manned counter and public access.
“Somerville does not want to take the specialist police units from the southern peninsula or Hastings – it wants and needs its own uniformed officers.”
Others speakers at the meeting were Opposition police spokesman Ed O’Donohue and Police Association secretary Ron Iddles.