Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has told Liberal Party MPs he will not back down from plans to withdraw police officers from Police Community Youth Centres.
Mr O’Callaghan this morning addressed the Liberal Party room with Superintendent Mark Gilbert after the issue boiled over at the party’s meeting last week.
It is understood to be one of several matters angry MPs put to Police Minister Rob Johnson when they questioned his performance in the portfolio.
MPs said Mr Johnson was berated for failing to stand up to the Commissioner.
Speaking to media after this morning's meeting, Mr O’Callaghan acknowledged that not all MPs were happy with the plan, but said police were “staying firm”.
“We had a long conversation with a number of backbenchers,” he said. “I think part of the issue here was that they just needed to have explained to them the details of the model.
“We’ve gone through that, but we’re not deviating from what we have put out there already.”
Police officers and administrative staff are stationed at 10 metropolitan PCYCs and 14 regional centres from Albany to Broome.
Mr O’Callaghan said that under the change, 12 police officers stationed at PCYCs will be replaced with 20 roving youth liaison officers.
He said police would not be withdrawn from PCYCs until funding for the new arrangement was in place.
Mr O’Callaghan acknowledged as “reasonable” the concept of police being role models to youth at the centres.
“But the issue is, it’s a case of priorities here,” he said. “Juvenile offending is on the rise in Western Australia.
“We’re seeing more and younger kids offending than ever before. We need to focus on those kids and we can’t be everything to everyone.
“We’ve got to focus on what comes first and what will have the most benefit to the community.
“Those officers will still go to PCYCs and they will still see other kids there. But you also have to understand that they will be moving around the communities and talking to kids in the communities as well outside of the PCYC structure.”
Mr O’Callaghan said it was the first time he had to explain a policing policy to the party room, but offered to join Supt Gilbert, who was asked by Mr Johnson to attend.
“It’s different, but I think there was quite a bit of concern about this and I think a lot of it is about misinformation,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say everybody’s happy, but everyone understands where we’re going.”