Upper House Liberal MP Phil Edman has hit out at what he says is a "Neanderthal" approach to juvenile policing after Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan refused to back down from plans to withdraw officers from Police Community Youth Centres.
Mr O'Callaghan addressed Liberal MPs yesterday morning at a pre-party room briefing after the PCYC issue boiled over in the party room last week during a broader attack on Police Minister Rob Johnson's performance.
Speaking after the briefing, Mr O'Callaghan acknowledged not all MPs were happy with the change, but "it's a case of priorities" and police were "staying firm".
Police officers and administrative staff are stationed at 10 metropolitan PCYCs and 14 regional centres from Albany to Broome.
Mr O'Callaghan said under the change, 12 police officers at PCYCs would be replaced with 20 roving youth liaison officers.
They would work on programs and talk to youth in communities outside the PCYC structure.
"We're seeing more and younger kids offending than ever before," he said.
"We need to focus on those kids and we can't be everything to everyone."
However, Mr Edman, a Southern Metropolitan Region MLC, said programs such as the anti-graffiti initiative The Right to Write and Weld to Life were successful and should be expanded.
He said Mr O'Callaghan had failed to give a firm commitment that officers running the programs would stay.
"I didn't get a straight answer," he said.
"I'm bloody angry. I don't think it's been thought out."
Mr Edman, whose electorate includes youth crime hotspots Kwinana and Rockingham, said juvenile policing seemed to focus on "locking up kids".
"This is a Neanderthal approach," he said. "We're going the way of America."
Asked if Mr Johnson was satisfied with Mr O'Callaghan's explanation, a spokeswoman for Mr Johnson said: "Yes".
She said the change would take effect at PCYCs "when the organisation is in a position to undertake the transition".
Opposition Leader Mark McGowan has labelled the plans an outrage.
'We're seeing more and younger kids offending than ever before.'" Police Commissioner * Karl O'Callaghan *