Cootamundra by-election candidates trade blows over policing proposals while residents voice their concerns

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Matthew Stadtmiller believes policing changes will reduce the number of cops in smaller towns.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Matthew Stadtmiller believes policing changes will reduce the number of cops in smaller towns.

Battle lines have been drawn across the Cootamundra electorate after party candidates traded blows over police reform.

Among the proposed changes sits an amalgamation between the Cootamundra LAC and its counterpart in Wagga.

Residents in Cootamundra have already expressed concerns about the possible merger.

“If Coota and Wagga LACs are forced to amalgamate, we all know the towns will be without police officers for long periods of time,” former Cootamundra man Al Smith said.

“They’ll be needed in Wagga to tackle the shortage of numbers and crime fighting.”

Mr Smith believed combining the commands would leave towns and villages unmanned, resulting in longer response times.

It comes months after NSW Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys initiated a state-wide ‘re-engineering’ study of police services and officer distribution in May.

Mr Worboys confirmed at the time that ‘new enforcement squads will be deployed to police regional areas’ and ‘work out of hubs’.

“The enforcement squads are really around prevention and disruption which then will hopefully decrease the workload for the uniformed police and the other police,” he said at the time.

The suggestion prompted Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Matthew Stadtmiller to accuse the government of setting out to forcibly amalgamate the two police centres.

However, Nationals Party candidate Stephanie Cooke described such views as the result of scaremongering.

Shadow Police Minister Guy Zangari has demanded answers from his counterpart, Troy Grant.

“The Minister for Police needs to end the speculation,” he said.

“He must come out and reassure communities by releasing information indicating which LACs will be closed or amalgamated and detail how many extra frontline police officers each local area command is going to receive.”