MEMBER for Lake Macquarie Greg Piper didn’t pull any punches when describing how dilapidated the old Toronto police station had become.
“It was really as bad as it could get without it being condemned,” Mr Piper said.
Never mind the cracks in the walls, the flaking paint, and the furry critters who inhabited the roof cavities; the station built at the corner of Cary and Thorne streets in 1964 was no longer large enough nor functional.
“The old station just had no utility for modern policing,” the Independent state MP said.
There was no space for officers to relax and “have a cup of tea”, and when the police needed to have a meeting, they were forced to do so off site.
“And for members of the public who would come in, it was most uninviting, with no real separation between people who might be involved in conflicts.”
So, this morning, when Police Minister Troy Grant officially opened the new $6.8 million Toronto police station, Mr Piper understood better than most what it meant to the men and women in the Lake Macquarie Local Area Command.
The opening was the culmination of more than a decade of lobbying by Mr Piper for better facilities for local police.
“I started raising these issues even before I was the state member in 2007 because I’d dealt with police who I knew were working out of very, very sub-standard facilities,” he said.
“And it was one of the first things I raised [as the Member for Lake Macquarie]. I brought the former [Police] Minister Michael Daley – who was the minister in the Morris Iemma government – here early in my first term. He saw the problems, but it took more than one minister to be able to deliver this, but I’m just so delighted.”
The new Toronto station incorporates a segregated charge room, a new meeting facility which allows briefings, task forces, and training to be conducted at the station, and an upgraded public waiting area with a television, toilet facilities and improved seating.
Staffing at the station comprises a chief inspector, seven sergeants, a senior constable station officer, four leading senior constables, 36 general duty senior constables and constables, three police prosecutors, and three administrative support staff.
Lake Macquarie Commander, Superintendent Brett Greentree, welcomed the improved facilities.
“Policing in Toronto has a long history,” he said.
“In 1905 we operated from a rented premise, before building a police boat shed in 1917 that was used as an extra building, before moving to the current site in 1964.
“The opening of three new police stations in the space of 20 months gives reassurance to our community that our officers are equipped with the best facilities to tackle crime.”
In their speeches at the opening ceremony, Superintendent Greentree and Mr Grant acknowledged the role Mr Piper had played in helping to bring the Toronto station to fruition.