Thin blue line at council meetings

Police cars at the Bushy Park Pool earlier tonight.

THE cost of police presence at council meetings was questioned by members of the public attending tonight’s community forum and Derwent Valley Council meeting in the hall at the Bushy Park War Memorial Swimming Pool.

Two uniformed police officers sat through the community forum and open council meeting but left just before the council went into its closed session. They interacted good-naturedly with the 20 or so members of the public present, but this use of police resources soon came into question.

“Who pays for the police to come to be at the door of a meeting?” Anne Stephenson asked from the public gallery during the community forum.

Standing in for the mayor, deputy mayor Jessica Cosgove said nobody pays for the police to attend council meetings. “Obviously Tas Police have a station here in the Derwent Valley and I’m assuming that it is just in the interest of the community for the police to occasionally have a presence here as they do throughout other community events and in the public on a regular basis,” Cr Cosgrove said.

The matter came up again during public question time at the council meeting, with Rebbecca Thorpe asking whether ratepayers had to pay for the police presence. Cr Cosgrove said she had answered the question during the community forum but would do so again for the benefit of the audio recording.

“No, council do not have to pay for a police presence,” Cr Cosgrove said. “Obviously Tas Police provide a service to the greater community and that is to ensure presence at a variety of events in our municipality for the safety not only of ratepayers but for the members of the public.”

The public gallery at tonight’s meeting.

Ms Thorpe then asked whether police were present for other council meetings around Hobart, and both Cr Cosgrove and acting general manager Margaret Johns said this was the case. “The community police liaison department actually take an interest in community matters and they attend meetings when they think that there might be something on the agenda that is of interest to the community where there might be a large gathering taking place,” Ms Johns said, adding that such visits were not necessarily scheduled.

Ms Thorpe asked whether the attendance at tonight’s meeting had been specifically requested and Ms Johns said she could not answer that. In response to a further question Cr Cosgrove and Ms Johns repeated that they did not know if someone had requested the police attendance.

Police officers were present at three council meetings in June and August last year. Police also attended last month’s council meeting on a matter unrelated to council business.

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