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Commissioner Andy Coster and Police Association president Chris Cahill both expressed concern and praise for the frontline when they spoke at the annual conference last month, and they pledged to ensure that good lines of communication continued between Police and the association.

Conference 2020: Focus on the the frontline

Police Association president Chris Cahill welcomed delegates to a “Covid-conscious” annual conference in Wellington last month.

The absence of the usual international visitors and expert speakers, or a bravery award, this year meant the event was pared back from three days to two.

Essentially, Chris said, it was a delegates’ conference, and the agenda reflected a slew of topics that went to the heart of frontline conditions.

In his opening speech, Chris reflected on the 12 months since the last conference. He noted the loss of Constable Matt Hunt, killed on duty in June, and the killing of Kiwi cop Matt Ratana in London in September – two shocking reminders of how dangerous
the job can be.

This year had also brought the “unwanted first instance” of officers being charged with manslaughter in relation to a death in the Hawera custody cells.

In response to a Covid-dominated year, Chris praised the empathetic and pragmatic approach that New Zealand Police had taken during the crisis, “finding the balance that was most in tune with wider New Zealand society”.

Meanwhile, members continued to be confronted by firearms in their communities and the fact that officers in many places were opting to wear the removable ballistic plates in their vests throughout their shifts was a reflection of that level of risk, Chris said.

In the coming year, the association would continue to campaign on firearms law reform. “I inherited this issue when I was elected president four years ago, and while there have been times when I would have welcomed a different topic to be consumed with, I have no intention of giving up this fight. It is literally in the faces of our members every day. Pushing for a resolution rightfully remains in my custody as president.”

Other substantial issues on the association’s agenda were:

  • the Frontline Safety Improvement Programme
  • the dangerous state of custody suites throughout the country
  • legislation that permanently protects the names of officers involved in police shootings
  • initiatives that protect the mental and physical wellbeing of members.

“The ARTs may be gone but the issue of frontline safety most definitely remains,” Chris said. “Officers must have the equipment, the training, the technology and the capacity to perform to the best of their abilities.”

For the country, he said, there was no sugar-coating the economic ramifications of the Covid crisis that were yet to hit, and police would inevitably have a role to play.

“The resulting social strain of disrupted communities will potentially manifest itself in rising property crime, family violence and self-harm. That in turn puts extra pressure on our members and we need to plan and be ready for that.”

Steady progress had been made in the delivery of 1800 extra police, “but we cannot afford to take our eye off that ball either”.

Another member-wellbeing initiative that the association had embarked on was a challenge to ACC’s practice of refusing to accept PTSI (post-traumatic stress injury) claims for cumulative effects. In November, members would be surveyed on their experiences of PTSI

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