Carnarvon suffering cop shortages amid crime wave as record resignations hit regional stations

Headshot of Jake Santa Maria
Jake Santa MariaGeraldton Guardian
Carnarvon has found itself hit by alcohol-fuelled violence.
Camera IconCarnarvon has found itself hit by alcohol-fuelled violence. Credit: The West Australian

Regional cops are under the pump as a record number of resignations leave stations short of officers in some of the biggest problem areas in the State.

Figures tabled in State Parliament this week show the Mid West is short 20 officers as some regional WA towns, such as Carnarvon, battle an alcohol-fuelled crime wave.

In the latest terrifying incident in Carnarvon, a boy suffered serious head injuries being hit by a flying object during a riot on Sunday, understood to have involved about 100 people.

Carnarvon Shire President Eddie Smith said the police officers in the town — which has been plagued by alcohol-fuelled violence in recent days — were doing the best they could, but were constantly run off their feet.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“From where I sit, they are inundated with issues,” Mr Smith said.

“They just can’t keep up.”

However, Geraldton Police officer-in-charge Sen. Sgt Chris Martin said the problems in the Mid West were not as bad as other centres, with Geraldton cops ready to intervene where needed.

“We do on occasion deploy some of our staff to regional areas such as Carnarvon and Meekatharra, or wherever in the Mid West-Gascoyne district where additional police officers are required, for a number of reasons whether it be community pressures, leave, vacancies etc.,” he said.

“There may be some wider vacancies in the agency but we certainly manage them very well in the Mid West-Gascoyne and we’re very committed.

“Everyone that comes to Geraldton Police Station know they may be deployed to Carnarvon, to Meekatharra or a smaller station such as Morawa, and luckily they’re all very happy to do it because they understand the commitment they’ve made to the community to make it safer.”

There are 110 vacancies in all with the Goldfields-Esperance police district the worst-affected, which is short 21 officers.

The Kimberley and Mid-West Gascoyne region are both short 20 police, while the South West has 19 spots that need filling.

The new figures have been seized on by the State Opposition who claim the statistics are further evidence of a staffing crisis within WA Police.

Opposition police spokesman Peter Collier also said more than 70 officers had quit the force already this year, on top of the 465 police officers who handed in their badges last year.

“The impact of this record resignation rate has impacted most profoundly in regional Western Australia,” Mr Collier said.

“This situation is unlikely to change while the Minister for Police stubbornly holds on to the misguided view that police are resigning ‘due entirely to the economy and other opportunities’.

“The ignorance of the minister in this respect is gobsmacking. The reality of the situation is that morale in our police force is at an all-time low and the tsunami of resignations will continue until changes are made to improve the working conditions of our force.”

One serving regional WA Police officer — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to The West this week — said the level of vacancies and resignations across the State “should be causing the agency and community some real concern”.

The officer, who has been in the job more than 20 years, said many officers in regional WA were felling micromanaged and burnt out.

“There are still good bosses in the regions that are working to shield their staff from the s**t rolling downhill,” the experienced officer said.

“Our hierarchy are not reading the room, but think it will be OK if we will get cops from other jurisdictions to fill the holes. We are burning ourselves out to keep the community safe and we are working for the community, not for the hierarchy who don’t give a s**t about us.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails