President's column: Election fever

NZPA - Chris Cahill | Fri September 1st, 2017

We are only a couple of weeks from the 2017 election and it is game on. It would be difficult to overstate how interesting it all became just a few weeks ago – particularly when three party leaders resigned in a two-week period.

This is the first election I have experienced as a resident of the capital. Like capitals the world over, Wellington’s main game is indeed politics. From right across the political spectrum there appears no shortage of the informed, and the speculative, ready to engage at the slightest encouragement.

From the beginning of this year it was made very clear that we as police officers and Police employees have skin in this political game.

In a highly unusual move, the prime minister centred his February State of the Nation speech on law and order – most specifically, increased police numbers.

That $500 million Safer Communities package – $388m of which funded 880 more police officers and 245 extra Police employees over four years – was the focus of the speech. It was clearly designed to take the heat out of the growing concerns emerging from a seriously overstretched and thinning blue line.

As we saw in the pledges of two of the other main parties contesting this election – Labour and NZ First – a bidding war was on. Labour promised 1000 more officers and 300 more support staff; NZ First promised 1800 to 1900 extra police.

We applauded the fact that politicians of all hues were paying attention to our calls for help.

As is the long tradition of the Association, we do not pin our colours to any one political party. Rather, we carefully assess the merits of all policies that affect our safety and wellbeing.

This election year, we have not shied away from clarifying that although we welcome the extra officers, the fact is that by the time they are all on the beat, growth in New Zealand’s population will mean the police-to-population ratio will be no better, and possibly worse, than it is today.

Nor have we been quiet about our disappointment over the treatment of the recommendations of the Select Committee Inquiry into the Illegal Possession of Firearms. That disappointment is directed at all political parties, and we will continue to push our message no matter which party/coalition wins on September 23.

As police officers, Police employees, Association members and New Zealanders, we have a duty to be politically engaged enough to go out and vote. We are privileged to live in a democracy where we can vote regularly and freely. I hope you see this upcoming election as a time to have your say.

There is truth in the maxim that if you don’t vote, you can’t moan.

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