Unworkable, crowded station impeding Gungahlin police
Sergeant Andrew Mitchell looks out over the sprawling expanse of residential construction in Gungahlin. Photo: ACT Policing
Gungahlin police are being constrained by a station too small for their needs, sparking calls for the construction of a new, stand-alone police station to help cope with the area's massive population growth.
ACT Policing operates from Gungahlin Joint Emergency Services Centre, a building owned by the ACT government and shared with paramedics and firefighters.
The station, opened in 1998 and made a 24-hour police service in 2009, has felt the effects of the area's huge population expansion, which has doubled from 24,400 to 49,700 in the decade to 2011, making it one of Australia's fastest growth areas.
Work spaces, desks, and computers are limited. Overcrowding is a problem, particularly during the overlap of shifts, and some officers have reported being unable to sit down at a desk or access their computer for an entire day.
This has meant officers are unable to look at important intelligence briefs and emails before they begin their patrols.
The space to conduct interviews, particularly so-called ''soft interviews'' with victims and traumatised witnesses, is restricted.
The lack of space has put pressure on the officers, who cover a huge area stretching from Dickson in the inner-north to Hall and Bonner near the NSW border.
The Australian Federal Police Association chief executive officer, Dennis Gellatly, said the station was falling well short of accommodating a 24/7 police operation in one of Australia's fastest-growing town centres.
Mr Gellatly said a new stand-alone police station was needed to cope with the projected growth of Gungahlin.
''Gungahlin Police Station was built to the absolute minimum needs of a fledgling community a decade and a half ago,'' Mr Gellatly said.
''The ACT government needs to build a stand-alone police station designed to meet the needs of a Gungahlin community of 80-100,000 residents,'' he said.
''Anything less is simply not sustainable over the longer term.''
The police station is currently in the process of a restructure, which is planned to give the officers more space.
The building is owned and managed by the ACT government and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate, unlike most other police stations, which are owned directly by the Australian Federal Police and ACT Policing.
A spokesman for Police Minister Simon Corbell said the government continued to work with police to identify accommodation priorities for the force.
The spokesman noted the construction of the new Belconnen Police Station, and recent upgrades to the City, Tuggeranong, and Woden stations. He said interim measures were also being considered to deal with the issues at Gungahlin station.
The police union said the lack of space may be affecting the morale of officers.
''Police are remarkably capable and adaptable; however, there is a limit to what is reasonable,'' Mr Gellatly said.
''As a community we insist on applying the fundamental principles of human rights.
''The working environment of police is no less as important and the consequences of an overcrowded workplace can impact morale and productivity and workplace safety,'' he said.
Plans have been drawn up for a refurbishment of the current station, to see them through the next few years. That would allow additional work spaces, new computers, and more overall space for officers.