Po­lice’s PR spins as blue line thins

Sunday Mail - - NEWS SPORT - MILES KEMP

THE pub­lic re­la­tions bud­get for SAPOL has bal­looned to al­most $2 mil­lion a year, de­spite cuts to ser­vices and po­lice sta­tion open­ing hours.

Fig­ures re­lease un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion show that five years ago the PR sec­tion had a bud­get of $1.1 mil­lion and now it is $1.979 mil­lion.

At the same time there has been an in­crease of five po­si­tions, or 50 per cent more staff.

Eleven of the staff are uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cers who no longer work on the road and four are for­mer jour­nal­ists and ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tants.

Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tives MLC Robert Bro­ken­shire ap­plied for the doc­u­ments that re­veal the splurge as part of his protest at the clo­sure of his lo­cal po­lice sta­tion at McLaren Vale, which SAPOL said “saved” $500,000.

“Po­lice sta­tions like mine at McLaren Vale are clos­ing and oth­ers are hav­ing re­duced hours con­tact with the pub­lic, so it doesn’t make sense that the pub­lic re­la­tions and me­dia bud­get is in­creas­ing,” he said.

When Mr Bro­ken­shire first ques­tioned the po­lice PR bud­get in 2011, he was pres­sured by SAPOL to stop, de­spite be­ing a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

“Peo­ple would rather see the $500,000 spent on keep­ing the po­lice sta­tions like McLaren Vale open than on SAPOL me­dia spin,” Mr Bro­ken­shire said yes­ter­day.

“Is me­dia spin now more im­por­tant than hav­ing op­er­a­tional peo­ple serv­ing the com- mu­nity? I’ve no­ticed this is not the only gov­ern­ment depart­ment where front­line ser­vices are tak­ing a back seat and me­dia spin is in­creas­ing.”

When the SAPOL me­dia unit was asked why sta­tions were clos­ing but the PR bud­get was be­ing in­creased, a spokesman stated: “With the in­crease of so­cial me­dia and in­creased re­quests from the me­dia, the Me­dia and Pub­lic En­gage­ment Sec­tion con­tin­ues to op­er­ate to re­spond to needs of the pub­lic and the com­mer­cial me­dia.

“The MPES has a num­ber of roles, in­clud­ing ser­vic­ing both the needs of tra­di­tional me­dia and com­mu­ni­cat­ing di­rectly with the pub­lic statewide via a range of plat­forms in­clud­ing the SA Po­lice web­site, Face­book page and Twit­ter ac­count.”

The spend­ing in­crease comes de­spite $260 mil­lion in cuts to the po­lice bud­get over four years, forc­ing the clo­sure of some sta­tions and the re­duc­tion of open­ing hours at oth­ers.

Uni­formed of­fi­cers have been cam­paign­ing against a wave of re­duced hours at po­lice sta­tions across Ade­laide, which they say has made their work­load “over­whelm­ing”.

Front-counter open­ing hours at the Glenelg, Golden Grove, Hen­ley Beach, Net­ley, Nor­wood and Sal­is­bury sta­tions were slashed in Septem­ber last year from seven days a week to five. The Parks sta­tion was closed to the pub­lic.

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