Is thin blue line about to stretch skywards?
POLICE are on the front line but what happens when there are gaps forming due to a shortage in officers in rural areas?
Emerald officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Graeme Reeves may have just the answer with a fly in, fly out police squad and has been awarded a $15,000 Courier Mail police scholarship to research his idea.
The scholarship will enable Snr Sgt Reeves to travel to Canada where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been utilising the concept with their officers.
"The initial concept was looking at alternative methods to service vacancies within rural Queensland because it's been an ongoing problem for a number of years and seems to be compounded by the mining boom," Snr Sgt Reeves said.
"This project has further implications for not only the Queensland Police Service but other emergency service departments which may have to implement similar fly-in, fly-out services in various rural areas.
Snr Sgt Reeves received the scholarship in a Brisbane ceremony last week, joined by his wife Della and family for the auspicious occasion.
"I was pleasantly surprised (to win it) but I believe it to be a relevant topic," he said.
"No study has been conducted into whether fly in, fly out police could be effective and to make an informed decision we need to gather information to determine whether it's a viable concept in certain situations.
"I applied for it some months back, I've been working on the project for the central region for the past 12 months."
Snr Sgt Reeves has been in contact with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and will spend six to eight weeks there researching their FIFO workforce, currently operating 40 aircraft at 19 bases across Canada.
"They have a number of remote detachments or stations that are fly in, fly out only, the largest being in the north west territories comprising 22 detachments," he said.
"I hope that this study will be able to assist in exploring models used in Canada for the possibility of introducing similar models in Queensland, though Western Australian police are currently examining the same concept to service areas in the Pilbara and Kimberly regions.
"I intend to visit Western Australia to work in conjunction with their police department."
He said though there is a lot of negativity about a fly-in, fly-out workforce, there are still a lot to positives to be gained from it.
"For example, during the 2010/11 floods, Emerald flew in and flew out a total of 80 police and during that time it was well received by the public. So in certain circumstances it is a positive," he said.
"The trip is to establish a lot of the unknowns to determine whether the positives outweigh the negatives."