President's Column: A positive start to the year
It is the nature of the political beast that any major announcement a government makes in election year is slapped down as an “election bribe”.
The Government’s Safer Communities Package proved no exception to this political peculiarity. Of course, the “rule” applies no matter the hue of the party in power.
Frontline police officers, however, have little patience with political game playing. The fact is you all know how stressful policing has become with an increase in serious gun, gang and meth crime, together with a rise in serious assaults against officers.
Politics does not leap to mind in the heat of being presented with a firearm or being assaulted in the line of duty. However, when you feel stretched to breaking point, you need to know that politicians of all stripes listen when you tell them straight up how it is in the real world.
Without a doubt, the quality of police work in New Zealand has contributed to the country’s recent ranking as fourth safest in the world (behind Iceland, Denmark and Austria). Improving on that rank is a goal worth striving for, but the Association is acutely aware that such milestones cannot be reached without proper resourcing.
The Association has openly welcomed the extra 880 sworn staff and 245 Police employees. This 10 per cent increase acknowledges our very public concerns for policing across all areas.
I met with Police Minister Paula Bennett soon after the announcement and it was pleasing to see her enthusiasm for her new portfolio. She emphasised that the Government expects a return on its investment and considers policing to be a key part of a multi-faceted, integrated approach to law and order.
An example is the Justice Minister’s $680,000 boost for the Christchurch Family Violence pilot, which complements the extra policing package in that it reviews on a daily basis all family violence episodes attended by police, as well as high-risk prison releases.
I made it clear to Minister Bennett that the Association is well placed to give her a first-hand view of what is happening across policing.
It has been a positive start to the year, but do not forget that the package will take four years to be fully recruited and implemented. We are now waiting to see how the new staff will be distributed.
The Commissioner has committed to all districts receiving some new resources and, because it is election year, politicians are demanding increases in their individual patches.
On your behalf, we will be watching.