Young recruits, overseas cops in sights of hiring blitz

Lower age limits for recruits and poaching police from other jurisdictions are part of a NSW plan to boost its force amid a "critical shortage" of officers.

The state already has more than 1500 officer vacancies, while more than double that number have left their jobs in recent years.

Regional recruits will be encouraged to stay in their communities once they become officers, while school-leavers will no longer have to wait a year to join as the age of eligibility is lowered from 19 to 18 in an attempt to bolster numbers.

In previously announced changes that began in March, trainee officers will be paid while completing their 16-week course, which the government has credited with helping to fill an entire class of 350 recruits.

But more experienced officers continued to leave, triggering negotiations about how to retain more existing officers, Premier Chris Minns told reporters on Wednesday.

"That's important for headcount, it's also important for culture," he said.

"We've got experienced police officers ... and they've got decades worth of experience to pass on to younger people who join the police force."

NSW Police had lost almost 2500 constables and 700 sergeants between 2019 and 2023, Mr Minns told parliament.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman said retention was an important part of filling the shortfall in police ranks.

"It's always easier to keep someone than to find someone," he said.

NSW will attempt to replace departing officers and fill shortfalls by luring serving police from other jurisdictions, including other Australian states and New Zealand.

Instead of joining the force at the probationary constable rank after their training, transferring officers would keep existing ranks up to senior constable grade after a shorter training period.

Officers in other jurisdictions were keen to move and dozens - including from New Zealand - had inquired before the announcement, NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb said.

"Now the door is open," she said.

But NSW faces tough competition from other states for a limited pool of experienced recruits amid widespread shortages.

Queensland announced in April more than 2000 applicants had responded to a domestic and international recruitment campaign, while Victoria began contacting applicants it had previously rejected in January. 

Western Australia started targeting overseas applicants from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand in 2022.

South Australia hailed its efforts to recruit officers both locally and from overseas on Wednesday, when it also pointed to an international campaign to hire 200 experienced police from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand.

More than 250 applications had been received for a program that offered incentives including the reimbursement of visa costs for recruits and their family members, the state government said.

A second program in NSW will let regional police graduates remain in their hometown or a nearby location after completing their training.

"You don't need to worry that you'll be sent to Sydney and not be connected to your community," Ms Webb said.

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