NZPA 83rd Annual Conference

NZPA | Thu November 1st, 2018

An extraordinary time for policing

Chris CahillThe Police Association’s 83rd Annual Conference was taking place against the backdrop of an extraordinary time for policing in New Zealand, president Chris Cahill told delegates and invited guests gathered in Wellington last month.

The association was witness to a “once-in-a-lifetime staffing commitment from the Government” and, at the same time, members were in the midst of discussing and voting on the pay offer from Police.

The economic pressure on members in Auckland could no longer be ignored, he said, and meaningful steps needed to be taken to address that or risk losing core policing services in the greater Auckland area.

On the other side of the ledger, the boost in Police resources was a tangible recognition of what members had indicated was their No 1 concern – staff shortages.

The promised 1800 extra police and 485 extra Police employees would mean: relief on the frontline; less everyday stress; safer working conditions; reduced police-to-population ratios (aiming for one officer for every 468 New Zealanders; from 1:545); and diversity among the ranks.

Recruiting was going well, he said, but the association was concerned about the loss of experienced officers in the service. “We need those with 10, 15 and more years in the job because they are the mentors and the on-the-job trainers for all these new recruits.”

Part of the challenge of the recruitment drive was for Police to focus on training of supervisors and specialists, such as detectives. Reliance on Success Factors online modules needed to be re-evaluated, he said. “There is a very real difference between training and instruction.”

Over the past few years, he said, the task of keeping New Zealanders safe had become increasingly stressful and more dangerous.

“Firearms possession and shootings are now everyday incidents in New Zealand through a combination of a massive arsenal of illicit weapons and offender recklessness.”

Firearms incidents were the most concerning safety issue for members, and the debate on improving firearms reporting and tracking, and creating credible firearms law reform, was dangerously overdue.

Speaking to the conference’s theme – Weeding out the Referendum: Policing with a “Yes” vote – Chris said the association’s role was to establish itself as a strong and informed voice on the subject. “We have been assured by the justice minister that the association is considered an interested party and will be consulted,” he said.

“We bring to the debate frontline experience of policing cannabis and first-hand experience of the social harm of drugs, the needs of young offenders and the role and impact of gangs and organised crime in the drug trade.”

Chris welcomed those attending the conference, including 34 committee-elected delegates from the association’s seven regions, three members of the association’s Diversity Governance Group, an observer from Southland police, and overseas guests from Australia and South Africa.

 

No drop in recruit standards

Stuart NashPolice Minister Stuart Nash was at pains to try to reassure conference delegates that the standard of recruits being drafted into the Police College would not drop as a result of the drive to increase the number of police officers.

“We will not reduce the quality of recruits entering our Police service,” he stressed, and that was also the reason the Government used the word “strive” when talking about delivering 1800 extra police over three years.

The standard for entering the college was high and that was reflected in the calibre of recruits coming through the system, he said.

Mr Nash opened the association’s 83rd annual conference last month, telling delegates that, as the police minister, his focus was building a stronger Police service and he would be seeking further funding for Police in the 2019 Budget.

He was aiming for just two KPIs from the commissioner – 90 per cent trust and confidence from the public and 90 per cent of officers saying “they have the resources to meet the promises they make to our communities”.

The public wanted a greater uniformed presence and to know that police had the tools and resources to fight crime. “That is why we will not reduce the quality of recruits we are sending your way.”

In response to a question from Region 5 director Pat Thomas on the standard of recruiting, Mr Nash said it was true that the percentage of recruit applications being accepted had increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent. However, he said, that was because the standard of those applying had improved, and more people were applying due to the success of recent Police recruitment videos.

Mr Nash told delegates he was a strong believer in the Prevention First model and the use of alternative resolutions, such as pre-charge warnings, diversion and iwi community panels. “Police has advised me that with this prevention mindset, more staff will not correlate to increased pressure on the wider justice system.”

One of the Government’s goals was to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent and Police’s goal to reduce Maori reoffending would contribute to that.

“While more police might mean a shortterm increase in apprehending serious offenders through the focus on serious and organised crime and gangs, this is necessary to keep our communities safer.”

On the question of possible drug reform, Mr Nash said drug use and addiction must be treated as health issues. “I support the work Police is doing with its partner agencies and communities for a holistic approach to the reduction of harm caused by drugs.”

 

Law and order still top of Nats’ agenda

Chris BishopChris Bishop, the shadow minister for police, told the association’s annual conference he was delighted to be keeping company in the National Party with former Police dog handler Mark Mitchell (now the justice spokesperson) and former Crown prosecutor Simon Bridges (now the party leader).

In their former roles, he said, “Mark caught offenders and Simon made sure they were held to account”.

He reiterated that “National is the party of law and order”, at the helm when the crime rate fell by 14 per cent and there was a 38 per cent drop in Maori youth offending and a 23 per cent drop in Maori adult offending.

Mr Bishop told delegates that National had an impressive record of rolling out innovative programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of reoffending, such as iwi justice panels and drug and alcohol treatment courts.

The current Government, by comparison, had got rid of Better Public Service targets in favour of just one – reducing the prison population. If parole, bail and sentencing laws were changed, that would put the public at risk, he said.

“The only morally and politically legitimate way to reduce the prison population is by preventing crime and reducing recidivism.”

National would be holding the Government to account on the 1800 new police, “particularly because 880 of them were funded by National in Budget 2017”. It would also be watching for any drop in police training and recruitment standards, such as the fact that it was “no longer a requirement for Police applicants to have a swimming certificate”.

National was opposed to the suggested proposal of a volunteer rural constabulary. “The last thing our rural areas need is cowboy cops running around the place high with power that should be rightly reserved for people like you with training under their belts.”

The scrapping of the $8 million mental health/police co-response pilot planned by National, which had support from Police and the health sector, was extremely disappointing, he said. It would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response to those experiencing mental distress.

Mr Bishop said he had just held his first National Party Firearms Forum in Ashburton and would be holding 30 more around the country over six months with the aim of finding out what was working under the Arms Act and what could be done better. He would be consulting licensed firearms owners, Police and the association.

National had many positive policies ready to go if it returned to power in 2020, including a series of private member’s bills, he said. These included a bill seeking harsher penalties for “king hits” or “coward’s punches”; a bill to create a Young Serious Offender classification that would target hardened young offenders; and a bill to increase the penalty for killing a police dog from two to five years’ imprisonment.

Speaking to the conference theme, Mr Bishop said he was personally opposed to addressing the issue of recreational cannabis use through a referendum, especially one held at the same time as the election. National was, however, in favour of a comprehensive, regulated scheme to facilitate greater access to medicinal cannabis.

 

The future is almost here

Andy Coster Kaye RyanIf you haven’t already noticed, change is coming to Police constabulary staff in New Zealand, Acting Deputy Commissioner Andy Coster told conference delegates.

Recruitment and training were evolving, he said, and that would be accelerated by the current push to increase police numbers.

By 2021, he said, it was likely there would be twice as many female police in their mid- to late-20s as there are now, and by that stage, the peak age demographic for all constabulary would be 25-30 year olds, not the mid-40s as it was now.

Having a younger workforce didn’t mean Police didn’t want older staff. “We value the experience and wisdom of our older members as we value the enthusiasm of our younger members, their ability to vault fences and their social media savvy.”

There would also be more police recruited from ethnic minorities and LGBTQI communities.

“To be frank, a generation ago, we were actively focused against some in these communities, so we have to work hard to earn the trust of many.”

Police had also removed conditions that might be a barrier to those wanting to join Police, including eliminating the need for a pre-entry 50-metre swimming certificate and introducing greater flexibility in the physical aptitude tests.

Police were still “making great cops”, and they were “the right cops for a dramatically changing society”.

Mr Coster was speaking at the conference on behalf of Commissioner Mike Bush who was in Australia and unable to attend.

He outlined where some of the extra Police staff would be allocated, including 325 in prevention-focused positions, 54 Crime and Drug Prevention officers and 500 national-level positions working on Serious and Organised Crime Taskforces.

Plus, more people in frontline emergency response roles, new Precision Targeting Teams and more investigators working on complex current and historic cases such as adult sexual assault and child protection.

Mr Coster noted that the Police executive was concerned about illegal firearms and was intent on “modernising” its approach to the Arms Act to improve its administration and provide greater consistency and communication with firearms users.

Currently, the average time it took to process a firearms licence was 44 days. Plus, the fee schedule had been the same since 1999 and Police was dealing with a $9.3 million annual deficit.

Police had been meeting with firearms users and a service centre model had been suggested as a possible option.

Mr Coster set out to raise awareness about the Police High Performance Framework, acknowledging that while some staff had embraced the approach, others had “struggled to embed the principles”.

He said PHPF was a key mechanism to connect leaders and their teams at all levels of the organisation so leaders understood what their teams needed and teams understood what was expected of them.

It was a great model, he said, but it needed “understanding and buy-in” from individuals.

Mr Coster, along with Kaye Ryan, deputy chief executive: people and capability, fielded questions from delegates that ranged from road policing, new vehicles and custody suites to rotations and Police employees.

Conference room

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