Police’s PR spins as blue line thins
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.