NT Police officers left the force at double the rate in the last financial year, with the trend continuing in the latest quarter – the annual report shows – which follows revelations assistant commissioner Dr Narelle Beer resigned over executive bullying and feeling used in Constable Zach Rolfe’s arrest.
The annual report does not give the actual number of officers who left, or a breakdown of why they left, but the overall attrition rate was 8.51 per cent, up from 4.53 per cent in the 2019-20 financial year, and the 4.66 per cent of the year before.
The attrition rate is calculated using resignations, terminations, retirements and dismissals.
However, the NT Independent’s analysis of separate NT Police Association figures found 142 left in the last financial year, with six of those having been dismissed, 17 retired, and 119 resigning – more than double the 66 in total who left the force the previous year.
The NTPA itself cites an attrition figure of 148, but it seems to include six who had actually resigned in the previous financial year.
Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker refused to answer the NT Independent’s questions about the influx of officers leaving, but told June’s NT Estimates it was “not significant in the scheme of things”, and cited higher standards expected of junior officers than before.
But when asked why officers were leaving, he said only 10 exit interviews had been conducted of 77 recorded as having left at the time.
“We don’t tend to have a high take-up of exit interview participation – it is voluntary, it remains voluntary,” he said.
NTPA chief executive officer Paul McCue said the alarming figures reflected member concerns about a lack of police.
“Our members remain concerned about the loss of experience from within the ranks,” he said.
“However, we acknowledge the efforts of Commissioner Jamie Chalker to recruit more police to help bolster the frontline which is being stretched further than ever before due to extra duties being given to our members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is a government responsibility to maintain funding for recruiting and provide sufficient police to do what is being asked.”
Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro said the annual report showed the Gunner Government was “failing to adequately staff and support” the force.
“Labor doesn’t care that our police force is haemorrhaging officers,” she said.
“In fact, the Northern Territory Police Association revealed that Labor oversaw a 12-month period [2018-2019] without a single graduating constable squad.”
Breakdown of figures, huge drop of Aboriginal community officers
The annual report shows nearly seven per cent of the total number of those ranked as constables or above left in the past financial year, compared to 4.17 per cent and 4.19 per cent in the years before.
The figures also show 10.3 per cent of all Aboriginal Community Police Officers (APCOS) left in the past financial year, up from 2.65 per cent, and 3.88 per cent in the preceding tears, while 10.66 per cent of all auxiliaries left, up from 6.89 per cent and 8.53 per cent.
The NT Independent analysis found three senior sergeants left during the year. The annual report has their numbers increasing from 77 to 84, which would be attributed to promotions.
Meanwhile, there were 10 sergeants who left with the annual report showing a decrease from 225 down to 220. There were eight senior constables first class, 31 senior constables, 14 constables first class, and 17 constables leave, with the annual report showing an increase from 851 to 864.
The report also showed there were 26 auxiliary officers who left, with the rest APCOS and recruit constables.
Overall, the annual report stated there were 1,641 full time equivalent police jobs, including auxiliaries and Aboriginal community police officers, up from 1,595 the year before and 1,537 in the year before that.
The annual report showed the biggest percentage drop came in the ACPO staffing figures, going down from 76.7 to 60.33 (which accounts for the double attrition per cent figure above), and auxiliary members dropping to 223 from 245.
These figures do not include the departure of police executives.
In the middle of this month NT Police assistant commissioner Dr Narelle Beer resigned – making her the third of the Territory’s top brass to resign this year – with sources telling the NT Independent that alleged bullying, and the feeling of being “used” by the executive over the charging of Constable Zach Rolfe over the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker in 2019.
Recruitment numbers unclear from report
The annual report gave two slightly different figures for the total number of recruits last financial year, with one section stating a total of 145 recruits graduated from eight recruit squads, including 109 constables, nine police communications auxiliaries, and 24 police auxiliaries. It did not say what roles the three other recruits were in.
Another section had 142 sworn officers (with the same category makeup as above) from eight recruit squads, along with 34 Aboriginal liaison officers for a total of 176.
It also stated there was 12 ACPOs recruited in one squad, 61 communication and other auxiliaries in five squads (despite previously seeming to say there were 33 in total), and 15 people recruited in one “accelerated recruitment program squad”, with 216 “participants” in seven constable squads
The annual report showed the number of constables only rose by 13 – 851 to 864 – plus an additional “81 recruit constables” who had not passed through the Police College when the report was signed off on by Police Minister Nicole Manison on August 27.
NT Police media manager Rob Cross did not respond to questions clarifying the figures.
The NT Independent asked if there were other ways officers could enter the force outside of these recruit figures.
NTPA survey shows 60 per cent of officers want to leave
Two weeks ago, the NTPA’s 2021 member survey showed more Territory cops were seeking a job outside the NT than ever before, with officers citing management issues as their reason for leaving.
Of more than 531 respondents, 60 per cent or 318 police officers have either applied or are considering applying for a job outside of the NT Police, doubling attrition rates since last year.
In another concerning finding, 64 per cent of officers surveyed said their morale is “low or very low”.
The only comment on the doubling of the attrition rate in the annual report was in a footnote under the data table which said a major contributing factor was an increase in other states recruiting.