Two police officers had to “run for their lives” and abandon a patrol car during a violent attack at an Alice Springs town camp on Tuesday night.
Police said the officers were responding to an alleged domestic violence incident at Larapinta Valley Town Camp at about 8:30pm when a group of up to 20 people attacked them.
A male officer was admitted to hospital for a knee injury while a female officer narrowly escaped injury when on attacker swung a wheel spanner at her head.
Alice Springs Acting Superintendent Scott Manley said the officers sought cover in a nearby building until support arrived.
“While attempting to take the woman into protective custody, it’s alleged that a group of intoxicated persons from nearby residences converged on them,” he said.
“This morning we’ve had a coordinated response from crime and response members to identify all the involved offenders … we’d be looking at charges of assault police and damage to property.
“We condemn this conduct as totally unacceptable, the public expect that their emergency responders should be able to attend and ensure a safe community without being obstructed or put in harm’s way.”
But he said police generally had a good working relationship with the town camps around Alice Springs and that incidents like this did not reflect the behaviour of the wider community.
Northern Territory Police Association president Paul McCue said the frequency of serious assaults on police officers around Alice Springs was increasing.
“We’ve had to see two officers literally run for their lives and abandon their vehicle for simply responding to a job,” he said.
“It’s going to get to a point where officers are going to need several vehicles to go when there’s an incident of that nature.
“The last thing we want to see is anyone in the community put at risk simply because of a few fools that take it upon themselves to attack officers doing their job.”
‘Police shortage a problem’
But Mr McCue said a shortage of police officers was adding to the problem.
“We understand there’s been a lack of recruitment of police within Alice Springs, in fact we’re losing more than we can recruit in over the last 12 months,” he said.
“Government and the senior police need to sit down and look at how many resources we’ve got down in Alice Springs… not on the books as of last year but right now.
“Because I can tell you there’s certainly not enough.”
Acting Superintendent Manley would not answer questions on whether there was a shortage of officers in Alice Springs but said they were “actively recruiting”.
Police Minister Michael Gunner said the funding allocated to police recruitment was adequate and that police were on track to recruit 120 new officers across the Territory over the next four years.
“This will grow to $15.8million by 2019-20 and will provide police with the certainty of a stream of new graduates coming out of the police college,” he said.
“We increased the number of police in Alice Springs this year, with a further eight being deployed in February.
“The Commissioner of Police and I have regularly discussed the importance of police resources to the safety of Territorians.”