AN INCREASING number of burnt-out police officers are taking sick or stress leave because they feel their hard work is being disregarded by the state's justice system.
In 2010, more than half of the 8015 illicit drug offences dealt with in NSW local courts resulted in the offenders being fined, while 10% of offences attracted a bond with no conviction.
Out of all the drug offences last year, just 3% attracted a prison sentence.
A local police officer told The Northern Star morale among police was low because they were not seeing the fruits of their labours.
"We put so much work into putting them before the courts," he said.
"It's got to the point where some guys just can't be bothered.
"You don't want to walk down the street and get tied up with things that don't go anywhere.
"That's why we have had a massive number of cops on stress leave, and only a small proportion of them come back.
"It's being constantly let down after being loaded up with work."
A report released by the NSW Auditor-General last year found almost one in five police officers from the North Coast were on sick or stress leave or on restrictedduties - the highest rate in NSW.
State Clarence MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Police Steve Cansdell said there needed to be more measures to help police continue to "chase the bad guys".
"When we have cops doing a lot of work trying to get a conviction, then a magistrate - not all of them, but some - gives them a slap on the wrist and let's them go, it lets police down," he said.
But Lismore barrister and former Lismore Director of Public Prosecutions, crown prosecutor Nicolas Harrison said it was not the court's job to support police.
"It's the court's job to decide if police have enough evidence - not to support the police," Mr Harrison said.
He said brief service orders - compiled by police - were especially significant in drug matters that required scientific evidence.
"Often the police do not want to call their experts up from Sydney, then they need to do a deal with (the defence), but that's their call.
"Cannabis is so prevalent up here but the issue for the court is, if it's their first offence then why should they go to jail?
"The police would have everyone's bail refused to their sentencing if they could.
"About 95% of people should be on bail. It's only the 5% that are the bad guys and you know are going to (offend) again."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.