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Home / Publications and Media / 2021 Media Releases

IPCA release thematic review of policing in small communities

4 November 2021

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has today released its review of policing in small communities, which makes 41 recommendations to Police.

We undertook the review after several people in different 'small communities' (communities with one- or two-person Police stations) complained about the way their local officers dealt with them. Because of similarities across the individual complaints, the Authority decided to conduct the review to identify:

  • what works well in these types of communities and where improvements to Police service are needed; and
  • whether officers in small communities need further training and support.

The Authority selected 12 small communities across the country, and interviewed the local officers and residents.

Judge Colin Doherty, the Chair of the Authority, said that policing of small communities can be difficult and challenging. Officers are required to deal with a wide range of issues. They are generally expected to be available to their community at all times, and are often working alone in demanding circumstances without any immediate backup. In order to be effective, they must become part of the community and develop both strong professional and personal relationships, but this can cause conflicts of interest that must be carefully managed.

"We met outstanding officers in the course of our review and were impressed at the service they provided", said Judge Doherty. "However, we concluded that Police as an organisation lack an adequate national strategy for the allocation of resources and delivery of services to small and remote communities. The role of officers is not always clearly defined, and they do not always receive sufficient induction, supervision, training and support. Conflicts of interest sometimes arise that officers are not sufficiently trained and equipped to handle."

The Authority makes 41 recommendations, including:

  • better defining the scope of the small community officer's role;
  • developing clearer guidance on how to manage conflicts of interest that are particular to small communities;
  • providing regular welfare support to small community officers and their families;
  • developing a national resourcing model to support decision-making on appropriate resourcing of policing in small communities;
  • building more permanent relieving capacity for these roles;
  • developing better, more systematic induction processes;
  • limiting small community officer roles to a term of 5 years, with the possibility of an extension;
  • enhanced training and a support network for small community officers;
  • better supervision of officers and more community feedback on how well Police are serving these small communities;
  • better promotion and funding of the 105 reporting line to reduce wait times and manage community expectations; and
  • more guidance on how officers should engage with their communities.

Police are currently looking at these issues through their Rural Policing Enhancement Project (RPEP). We have agreed with the Commissioner of Police that we will monitor the progress of that project and Police's implementation of:

a) any recommendations that come out of the RPEP; and

b) the recommendations we make in this report.

Public Report (PDF 1.38 MB)

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