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President's Column: Opportunity for real change

The ultimate test of a legitimate police service is undoubtedly its commitment to, and investment in, the safety of those it sends to the frontline.

Frontline safety of our members is an elemental component of the everyday work of the association and our October conference confirmed this with most of the remits from delegates directly related to safety, and training to improve safety.

This is not a new direction for us. Although there have certainly been improvements, many more are still required to keep pace with the changing nature of crime.

The conference was reminded of our lengthy crusade when one of our life members spoke on the issue – an issue he had raised at an association AGM in 1997!

Police, however, has given us reason to believe that real grunt is being put into addressing frontline safety in a comprehensive, progressive and inclusive manner. Discussions with the commissioner and Police leaders involved in the Frontline Safety Improvement Programme (FLSIP) gave delegates confidence that the executive at PNHQ recognises the need for action on this file.

Quite frankly, if this year’s stark reminders of the dangers faced by frontline officers are not enough to provoke a significant frontline safety programme, I’d hate to think what it would take.

At the most basic level, Police staff who are brave enough to be out on our streets every day and every night deserve to go home safely and uninjured to their whānau. Every possible opportunity must be taken to ensure this.

Police presented the conference with a challenging and wide-ranging programme that will undoubtedly require investment from the department and from the Government. If that is not forthcoming, it risks undermining Police’s mission to make New Zealand the safest country in the world. If staff are not safe, how can they be expected to keep the country safe?

FLSIP consists of nine workstreams covering training, valuing frontline responders and their whānau, a culture of safety, equipment and capability, a command and control framework, the response model, operational safety systems, information and technology, and performance insights.

It is fair to say our default position is often cynicism when presented with such a laundry list of ideals. We are hard taskmasters, but for good reason. We believe things when we see them.

In this case, I see a distinct change in Police’s approach, and I could even admit to being enthused by the commitment that the top brass has made to this programme. Yes, there will be challenges, potential delays and, quite likely, budget constraints due to a post-Covid recovery, but Police will not be alone in that.

What I also see is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make real change that produces meaningful outcomes for Police staff safety.

The association will be heavily engaged in this programme. We will consult, introduce initiatives, challenge misconceptions, and take every opportunity to ensure the views of frontline staff are heard and valued.

To succeed requires good faith and a collective commitment from Police and the association if we are serious about achieving tangible, future-proof changes that underpin the safety of Aotearoa, its people and its police.

Chris Cahill


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