President's Column - Theft of the frontline

NZPA Police News | Wed September 1st, 2010

“The real problem is that none of it results in better service to the public, because any advantages are quickly negated by the theft of policing time.”

I have recently travelled the length and breadth of NZ attending pay ratification meetings and then district AGMs.

With the glaring exception of Counties-Manukau, the common issue is shortages of section staff.

The obvious question is: Why? Where are the staff? My answer: compliance. It became obvious to me, after spending time with English Police forces, which are so bogged down with compliance as to become inefficient.

Because of ACC, a no fault insurance system, we in New Zealand haven’t (to date) had to fear civil litigation following incidents where someone or something has been damaged.

However, disclosure requirements, media attacks, and latterly IPCA (Independent Police Conduct Authority) and Coroner’s criticisms, have seen us moving to a form-filling and box-ticking culture – compliance – which is sucking the life blood from the frontline in two ways.

One, the time taken to fill the forms in; two, the time taken to process them, in that ever-growing back room.

The real problem is that none of it results in better service to the public because any advantages are quickly negated by the theft of policing time.

Governments come in demanding more delivery and less backroom but I have yet to see one do anything to reduce the need for the back room service.

Their modus operandi is to sack a lot of back-roomers, then pay twice as much for consultants to do the same work.

So, what is the answer, to increase section and investigator numbers? Reduce compliance! Accept there will be the odd failure and wear the criticism.

Ask any of the UK recruits working here whether we need to go further down the UK path of compliance, where no-one has any discretion.

Most will say that’s what they escaped.

Interestingly, UK Police experts are now calling for dismantling of their suffocating compliance regimes.

I defy anyone to say that the plethora of compliance regimes imposed in recent times have made us more efficient, or the public safer.

We are still more efficient than any other force I have visited, simply because we give our people more discretion than most.

What we actually need are NCOs (non-commissioned officers) who are highly competent, well selected and most importantly, freed from paperwork.

Complying with the boss’s orders is the best regime!
 

Back to listing