President's Column: Ever-increasing workloads

NZPA - Chris Cahill | Thu March 1st, 2018

Policing has to be one of the most dynamic environments in which to work, as shown by the variety of news stories and talkback and social media discussions focusing on seemingly all aspects of police work.

It seems everyone has an opinion, and the dominant one is that police should be out there solving all crime. For sure, police officers aim to do just that, but I’m concerned at the ever-increasing workload our members are facing as they stretch themselves close to, or beyond, breaking point.

In my travels around the country, I talk to officers in rural, provincial and metropolitan New Zealand and the overwhelming theme is the massive increase in the demands for service, but the required resourcing is just not keeping pace.

I am talking about the pressures on 24-hour frontline response staff, PST, crime squads and dog handlers. Our 2017 members’ survey identified that nine out of 10 staff perceive there are not enough resources allocated to GDB frontline, and in Southern and Eastern Districts, 97 per cent of staff believe the frontline is under-resourced.

In Commissioner Bush’s recent presentation of the Police Annual Review to the Justice Select Committee, he identified significant pressures, including 122,000 family harm incidents attended in the last year and 35,000 mental health incidents.

As the Commissioner pointed out, these are not “drop-in-and-drop-out” situations and a single incident can take a half or whole shift’s worth of officers’ time to deal with.

We know that in recent years there has been a concerning increase in offending and it is the frontline that responds to this growing demand. The resources for the frontline need to be boosted if there is to be any discernible increase in crime clearance rates. This is also the case with road policing, particularly with the tragic uptick in the number of fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.

Specialist teams undoubtedly have an important role in addressing the drivers of crime, and there is no argument that organised crime is a growing worry for New Zealand. Increasing resources in specialist areas, however, must not come at the expense of general crime investigation squads.

Police needs to recognise that, wonderful though many prevention initiatives are, people expect a response to their calls for service. If that’s not happening due to unacceptable workloads on the frontline, there is a real risk of losing the trust of New Zealanders.

When the Police Minister and the Police executive sit down to discuss the allocation of the 1800 staff promised, 24/7 frontline responders need to be at the head of the queue.

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