NSW voters will be kept waiting for at least another seven months for a promised influx of new detectives to investigate violent crime, despite the fact that their graduation is just three weeks away.

As the state’s overflowing Goulburn police academy reaches breaking point, Crikey can reveal that 125 detectives undertaking the 2010 Police Detectives Course will be cooling their heels until at least February next year, after the academy was told to process more probationary constables instead.

The final two weeks of the 2010 course, originally slated to conclude in September, will now not commence until January, with a final graduation sign-off of March 2011. Until they graduate, detectives are not permitted to officially investigate a range of serious statewide offences.

Only three weeks of face time stands between the detectives and formal employment. But three weeks ago, the cohort was contacted by the head of the NSW Detectives Unit to say the Goulburn course would be delayed to accommodate their fresh-faced colleagues as part of the Keneally government’s push to put more frontline police on the street.

One frustrated detective, who requested anonymity, told Crikey that he was “devastated” that he had been forced to make way for the clutch of more visible youngsters.

“It’s all very well hiring more frontline police, but the government seems to have forgotten about the people that actually have to investigate the crime.

“The entire group is disappointed. It’s effectively an extra six months of the course…it’s an achievement to become a detective, and now we’re going to have to wait.”

However, the detective said that they were already undertaking some detective work under the radar due to a lack of resources — even though they hadn’t formally graduated.

“We’re not supposed to be doing it, but because the final subject is a formality, we’ve been told to work as if we’ve already graduated.”

In 2007, the Iemma government promised 1500 new police, including an influx of 200 fresh detectives “by 2011”. But the government is yet to fully deliver on either promise. Then Police Minister David Campbell told state parliament that detectives would be crucial to investigating grassroots crime, including “property, assault and other serious offences.” In a media release accompanying this year’s state budget, Police Minister Michael Daley said he would draft another 400 “frontline offices” by December next year, with an extra 250 by next June, but failed mention the fate of the detectives.

While detectives do the most of the behind-the-scenes legwork to secure prosecutions, the junior constables would be visible in public and at graduation ceremonies well before next March’s state poll. Premier Kristina Keneally is expected to accompany a number of mortar board-throwing graduates on the hustings.

Shadow police minister Michael Gallacher accused the government of playing politics with graduation dates. He said he had been repeatedly contacted by police concerned about the delays.

“There is a clearly identified need for additional detectives on our streets, investigating crimes in our communities. It says a lot about the incompetence and conniving nature of NSW Labor that they’re willing to postpone Detective course graduations to make sure they have an adequate number of photo opportunities in the New Year.”

“Police Minister Michael Daley obviously wants as many graduating classes to take place during the election period as possible — to give him and Premier Kristina Kenneally something to do…it’s disgraceful that the future careers of predominantly young police recruits are becoming political footballs.”

A spokesperson for Daley confirmed that 125 detectives due to complete the course at Goulburn had had their graduation delayed until 2011.

But the spokesperson said the government was “on track” to deliver on its election commitment of 750 new police by the end of 2011 and that other detectives at the force’s Hurstville campus would still graduate this year.

The Goulburn facility has hit the headlines in recent weeks after the release of damning statistics on in-house alcohol offences and is groaning under the weight of young graduates marshalled by Keneally under her Bob Carr-style “tough on crime” election pledge.

NSW Police Association Secretary Peter Remfrey said the delay was “unacceptable”. “Other arrangements should be immediately put in place to allow the course’s completion and we’ll be making our feelings known to police command and the government.”

Detectives have told Crikey that the final phase of the course could easily be shifted from Goulburn to the University of Western Sydney’s Richmond campus, which is already setup for graduating inspectors and superintendents.

Peter Fray

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