WARRNAMBOOL police cells are holding more prisoners than they’re designed for and the union says the community is being put at risk.
On Wednesday 11 prisoners were kept in the cells with the police station gazetted to hold only 10.
Warrnambool Senior Sergeant Shane Keogh said Victoria Police does not discuss the numbers of prisoners in police cells and he couldn’t confirm or deny how many were being held.
“It is gazetted to hold 10, on some occasions it may go over that but if it did it would only be for a very short-term situation,” he said.
He said overcrowding in police cells was something Corrections Victoria was dealing with and 99.9 per cent of the time Warrnambool was under the gazetted amount.
Police Association secretary Greg Davies said overcrowding in police cells was happening right across the state.
He said every day 500 operational police were taken away from general duties to guard people in custody.
“Unless somebody in the government takes the bull by the horns there won’t be any relief for a significant time until another prison is built,” Mr Davies said.
“It’s 500 police who can’t go out and protect the community.”
Mr Davies said police weren’t trained to hold people in custody for long periods of time and the cells were not designed to hold prisoners for more than a few hours.
A Corrections Victoria spokesman said the state government was delivering one of the largest prison expansion programs in Victorian history.
“More than 560 beds have opened since March 2011, with almost 2000 in the pipeline,” he said.
“To help ease the pressure on police cells while these beds are built, Corrections Victoria has also added temporary accommodation at various prison locations.
“Moving prisoners into police cells and to court requires close co-ordination between Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria and the courts.
“To manage the increase in demand, Corrections Victoria has boosted prisoner transport services and will continue to support prisoners to appear via video link whenever the court determines it’s appropriate.
“This removes the need for prisoners to be transported to and from court and will help relieve pressure on police cells during this peak in prisoner numbers.
“Police and Corrections will continue to work closely to manage the demands on police cells and ensure that prisoners are transferred into prison as quickly as possible.”