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Conference 2020: Safety first

Ways to improve the safety of frontline staff were a feature of the remits brought to this year’s conference.

Body-worn and vehicle cameras

Delegates voted in favour of a motion from the Christchurch committee that the Police Association investigate developments in body worn and vehicle camera technology in relation to policing and report back on the pros and cons to the board of directors.

The committee noted that because body-worn cameras were a common feature of police TV shows, there seemed to be a mistaken belief among the public that New Zealand Police staff also had such cameras available to them.

In debating the motion, delegates pointed to the advantages of the cameras – providing live footage of events with a clear visual record of what has taken place, greater transparency and increased public confidence in the work police do.

Potential disadvantages, however, are the high cost of the cameras, the maintenance and storage of data and the logistical challenges of rolling them out nationwide.

Fleeing drivers

Delegates made it clear they want action from Police to improve the capability of staff who undertake urgent duty driving, particularly in the case of fleeing driver incidents.

National office believes that driver training, including urgent duty training, has not been sufficient.

A motion was passed at the conference in which the association agreed to engage with Police to ensure all constabulary staff have appropriate, and frequent, driver training, including developing the appropriate skills to engage in urgent duty driving in a safe and controlled manner. The motion also called for any changes to training to be authorised at the executive level.

The Waitakere Committee, which put forward the motion, noted that different types of police vehicles handled differently and had different configurations (eg, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines and different suspension systems) and not all constabulary staff were trained in these different types.

The committee also felt that by not providing fuller training, Police was not complying with its obligations as an employer under the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015), particularly in relation to junior staff with minimal driving experience.

Police needed to mitigate the risks. “An out-of-control police car is a very dangerous object, which has the potential to cause serious injury or death,” the committee said.

Single crewing

Those who work in rural areas (or know people who do) know it’s not uncommon for frontline police to spend an entire shift alone, a practice known as “single crewing”.

Delegates passed a motion from the North Shore/Rodney Metro Motorways Committee directing the association to lobby Police to immediately address the issue of single crewing, a matter that has been raised at previous conferences.

The motion also directs Police to ensure that safe staffing models in rural locations call for minimum staffing levels before staff attend critical incidents.

“Our staff are constantly told during training that they should apply TENR, however, we all know that if we applied TENR based solely on the fact that we are under-resourced, we would not be able to attend the critical incident. Not getting to the critical incident in time might mean death or serious injury to our victim,” the committee said.

They noted that reducing single crewing by having increased numbers of staff could improve police safety, particularly where there was an elevated risk of violence, where an offender was known to be present, during night shifts and in high-risk locations. These high-risk locations include radio “black spots” where constant communication is not guaranteed.

There was also heightened fear around the use of firearms within rural communities when attending family harm incidents. “This also applies to other incidents attended by our staff. When there is a heightened risk of firearms present, staff need to be adequately resourced, including equipment and adequate staffing.”

For staff who work in single-crewing situations, the association says they must have adequate equipment and training, including dynamic risk assessment and situational awareness, and be monitored closely by the comms centres with radio checks every 30 minutes – increasing in frequency to every 10 minutes when dispatched to a job.

In addition, single-crewed units should have a call sign clearly identifying them as a single-crewed unit.

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