President's Column: Allocation of the extra 1800 police

NZPA - Chris Cahill | Sat September 1st, 2018

So, now we finally know where the 1800 extra police are to be allocated. It will be equally pleasing to find out the allocation details for the 485 promised Police employees.

We all have an opinion on the fairness or otherwise of the allocation strategy so far, but I believe that once the extra police are actually out there doing their jobs, these numbers will definitely make a difference in all districts.

Northland and Eastern have long been acknowledged as the most under-resourced when it comes to being able to meet the ever-increasing demands for service, so their 25 per cent and 27 per cent increases respectively in officers, is good news for them. However, as you all know, those regions are not alone and the distribution pattern for all districts must be applauded as recognition of a genuine nationwide cry for help.

For years we have been calling for urgent allocations to the frontline and we must now remain vigilant to ensure district commanders respect this as their priority. Only when the full designated 25 per cent of officers (455 of the 1800) are in frontline emergency response roles will it be time to resource “precision targeting teams” and other new teams working in more specialist areas.

The value of these new positions is not in dispute, but neither is the serious stress on the frontline, and addressing that must come first.

A few eyebrows have been raised at the 500-strong cohort of national-level investigators and specialists to focus on organised crime, national security, financial crime and cybercrime. I can see why some would question such a large commitment to these areas.

However, if they are deployed and coordinated appropriately across district, national and international priorities, they have the potential to be real game changers.

However, I am more than a little alarmed by the sudden movement of the goalposts for funding of the extra officers and Police employees. The unexpected reference to funding over five years instead of three does not send the right signal about the Government being able to fulfil this commitment in its first term. Like any other government, the incumbent cannot guarantee anything beyond the next election.

The Police Association always accepted that the three-year goal was, in the minister’s words, “aspirational” because of the challenge of recruiting extra staff at the same time as recruiting to cover churn.

In reality, 1800 extra police has always meant having to recruit at least 3000 and, depending on attrition, that could rise.

If that’s not difficult enough, Police also has the challenge of retaining the quality, experienced staff we already have.

Many members have raised concerns with me over the officer attrition rate. The most up-to-date figures we have show 217 police officers left Police in the first six months of 2018. While this is not appreciably higher than for the same period in 2017, it is as much as 24 per cent higher than three years ago. We simply cannot afford to lose these experienced people when they are vital to achieving the 1800 extra officers. We need them to stick around to mentor and support graduates to become the best they can be.

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