President's Column: Thank you

NZPA - Greg O'Connor | Sat October 1st, 2016

As I pen my last President’s column in Police News, I reflect on advice I was given in 1996 by a previous editor not to undertake such a commitment, as I would quickly run out of topics to discuss each month.

Fortunately, I ignored that advice, as it seems there has never been a time since when policing issues have not been brewing or breaking. Grassroots members have alerted us to the brewing issues, invariably long before they became breaking ones.

The first really significant issue was INCIS, the failed IT project that cost Police dearly, financially and reputationally. The next was the emerging methamphetamine issue, which featured in Police News long before any official recognition of the problem, as did the comms centres (Iraena Asher), uninvestigated child abuse files (the IPCA wanted to know why Police News was featuring articles on the problem long before it broke), proliferation of illegal firearms and, latterly, chronic staff shortages.

This shows our members know their business and can recognise emerging issues.

The columns have also acknowledged excellent work, from individuals who have saved and changed lives, to great investigations and even far-reaching policy work such as the rewrite of the Policing Act.

There has been the opportunity to cast a critical eye over the policing philosophy of the day, be it Policing 2000, Crime and Crash Reduction, Policing Excellence or Prevention First. All these strategies have had positive and negative impacts, and Police News provided a forum to air all informed views.

We welcomed and farewelled police ministers and commissioners and discussed their contributions.

There were also, unfortunately, the tragedies, and the names of Glenn McKibbin, Murray Stretch,  Duncan Taylor, Len Snee, Derek Wootton and Don Wilkinson, all slain on duty since 1996, are etched in the collective Association and Police memory.

But underlying it all was the opportunity to acknowledge that New Zealand police are among the least corrupt, the most efficient, and the most professional police forces in the world. My exposure to police organisations in other countries, made possible during my eight years as chairman of the international policing body ICPRA, gives me the confidence to say that.

I’ve also seen that police in any country I have visited are reflective of the population they serve.

If the police are corrupt or brutal or racist, so is the community they are drawn from. New Zealand has traditionally been a very egalitarian and fair society, although the gaps are widening. We need to be vigilant and not allow police to become part of that growing gap, policing only the increasingly alienated sector as can happen in many societies, especially where governments exert more political influence on police.

And so, in this last column I want to thank you all, current and past members, for the opportunity you have given me over the past 21 years to represent you. As I step down, the Association is in good heart, financially and reputationally, and, as the election candidate profiles in this magazine attest, with very good people wanting to build on the success of our dedicated, talented and professional Association staff.

Wherever my hikoi takes me from here, my time at the Association will forever be the most significant opportunity I have had to contribute to making Police and New Zealand a better place.

Noho ora mai.

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