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Hole in NSW Police records policy revealed

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016

It's been revealed there are no rules that stop NSW police officers from deleting work-related text messages.

It comes after the inquest into the Lindt cafe siege heard last month that NSW Deputy Commissioner Cath Burn erased several of the SMS messages she received on the night of the deadly December 2014 siege.

NSW Police do have a records policy but it does not reference text messages, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told a budget estimates hearing on Thursday.

"It says ephemeral records can be deleted so if you send a text which is not ephemeral you should keep it," Mr Scipione said.

The state's top cop faced a grilling over the rules that Greens MP David Shoebridge labelled "woefully inadequate".

"Don't you think it would be essential for the NSW Police Force to at least have a policy that deals with how you retain or when you delete what could be crucial evidence in the form of text messages instead of just leaving it up to individual officers?" he asked.

Current state legislation makes it an offence to delete state records.

Those rules may need to be revised to encompass mobile phone texts, Mr Scipione conceded.

However, he also defended his organisation's policy arguing that many of the messages exchanged between officers may be of a "fleeting nature".

"Some of those messages may well be short in nature and not necessarily all that important because they may in fact be colleague to colleague, 'I'll be there in five minutes ready to be picked up'," he said.

The Lindt cafe siege inquest heard Ms Burn deleted text messages she received during and after the siege because she didn't believe they were significant.

The state's counter-terrorism head again defended her practice while appearing at Thursday's hearing, saying she "captures" records of messages she deems important.

She also revealed that some of her text messages are deleted automatically.

"Sometimes the phone that I've got, when you look at it what it's set on, it might be deleted within 30 or 20 days or something, so there's an automatic deletion," she told the hearing.

The budget estimates hearing heard it took four years for a new specialist negotiating truck to be ordered for NSW Police after it was damaged by a lightning strike in 2011.

The specially-fitted truck, which is set aside for dealing with terrorism incidents, was not available during the fatal Sydney siege.

It's expected a new truck will be ready for service by the end of October, Minister for Police Troy Grant told the hearing.

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