President's Column: It's time to rebalance our universe

Vol. 48, No. 9 | NZPA | Wed September 30th, 2015

The universe is balanced. Everything reverts to the average. What goes around comes around.

These clichés describe the truism that if you mess with the natural order of things, there will be consequences.

Take policing. The organisation we are part of has grown organically since New Zealand was colonised and, even then, the structures, along with the justice system, were transplanted from Britain where they had been evolving for centuries.

Police has developed in parallel with, and is intrinsically linked to, New Zealand society and is a mirror of that society. Police play their part in ensuring that society keeps functioning.

If you try to artificially alter the way any part operates, including police, without fully understanding the symbiotic links between the moving parts, the risk is that a vacuum of service will be created in the areas we ignore. As another saying goes, mischief will fill a vacuum.

And that vacuum is created when you fail in your business-as-usual roles. We have seen it in recent times in Police when we deprioritised and under-resourced drug and organised crime investigation, child abuse files and the comms centres while we were philosophically focused on other things – usually as a result of political priorities and resourcing shortages. The results are well known: the victims suffered and the reputation of Police dived.

We are now at the same place with firearms. Police are responsible for administering the Arms Act and it is an area that has been badly neglected as resources have been poured into other strategic initiatives. As a result, it has become ridiculously easy for law-abiding citizens and criminals to get firearms.

The evidence is apparent as police are stumbling across firearms and becoming involved in armed incidents on a daily basis.

As stories in this month’s Police News reveal, we are woefully ill-equipped in terms of firearms training and accessibility and availability to respond.

Members are coming to us with horror stories, and that happens only when they lose faith in the system. Input from members was the reason we were able to predict the P, comms and child abuse issues before they blew open.

In each case, a Police News story outlining the problems preceded the inevitable disasters.  Predictably, until then, the Police administration and the minister of the day denied the existence of a problem, quoting statistics to shore up their denials.

We’re here again, and it’s all about firearms. Summed up, it’s crims with too much firepower, us with too little. There’s no political will or money to fix the latter, so we are demanding something at least be done about the former. We need an inquiry to work out what’s gone wrong before the disaster happens and more people, including police officers, are shot in a predictable and avoidable incident.

It’s time to rebalance our efforts to ensure all community needs are being met, not just the ones designed to reassure the electorate in the short term. It’s time to rebalance our universe.

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