The Police Association has commended the government on today’s budget confirmation of 1800 extra police and 485 additional non-sworn Police employees.
“This $300 million commitment to policing is a serious one that is desperately needed to address the growing pressures on frontline 24/7 staff. The frontline should be the first cab off the allocation rank”, Association Vice-President Craig Tickelpenny said.
“We have always made it very clear to the minister that staffing issues top the list of concerns our members have, and we are pleased our voice has been heard.”
“We have been assured by Police Minister Stuart Nash that these new officers will be fully costed at $140,000 each to be duty ready – salary, training and equipment needed to do their jobs effectively and safely.
“The Association is also very pleased to hear the Minister’s aim is to reach a police-to-population ratio of 1:470 by 2020 – a tough call, and if it can be achieved, it will be a considerable improvement on the current 1:538,” Mr Tickelpenny said.
“The number of officers and non-sworn staff announced today incorporates the 880 officers and 245 non-sworn previously announced in February 2017 by National, but from the Association’s position, what matters is the number of fully funded officers on the beat, not which government delivers them.
“It is sometimes easy for those outside policing to forget that when governments increase the number of police officers, they also need to increase the number of non-sworn Police employees who are essential to efficient and successful policing.”
The Association will be watching closely the appointments of authorised officers in terms of the type of work they will be doing and where they will be located.
“While we have some misgivings about the allocation of 700 (40 per cent) of the new officers to organised crime, we hope any concerns about such a commitment to organised crime will be satisfied when the deployment details are released.
“The Association is only too well aware that the tentacles of methamphetamine have spread throughout the country. Meth and gangs are intrinsically linked and increasingly implicated in our rising crime rate, serious and organised crime in particular,” he said.
At this stage, the Association is not fazed by the minister’s use of the description that the coalition will “strive” towards this extra police muster over the next three years.
“That said, we will expect transparency to ensure every effort is made to keep this promise,” Mr Tickelpenny said.
The Association knows it will be a massive effort to recruit 1800 new officers over three years. This requires not just 600 a year for three consecutive years, but another 400 each year to compensate for attrition. We also need to assure New Zealanders that the standard to which the new recruits are trained is of the highest quality and that they are ready to hit the streets when they graduate.
The Association’s 2017 survey of its members revealed that for 38 per cent, staffing shortages are the top-of-mind concern.
That represents a 9 per cent increase on our 2015 survey and it is no surprise to the Association that 24/7 frontline staff have the strongest misgivings about policing work pressures.
Police respond to more than one million events a year, and answer almost as many 111 emergency calls, including suicide and non-suicide mental health 111 calls.
To the Association and many others, it seems that Police has become the country’s default mental health crisis service, so we absolutely welcome the Budget increases related to mental health and family harm issues.
“Adequately funding these societal stressors will first of all assist those who need them, but also relieve police of a major component of a frontline officer’s workload,” Mr Tickelpenny said.
Analysis of non-suicide mental health 111 calls shows a 77 per cent increase in calls between 2009 and 2016, and in some areas of the country those calls for service have more than doubled.
In Tasman District, the increase was just under 260 per cent. In Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty and Central, these calls have more than doubled, and throughout the rest of the country they are up significantly.
Suicide callouts increase about 9 per cent year on year, police officers respond to a family harm incident every five minutes, and every day they attend thousands of other events including hundreds of traffic incidents.
“These are not ‘drop-in-and-drop-out’ events and family harm and mental health calls now account for 70 per cent of a frontline officer’s work.”