Budget 2018: $300m boost for police 'commended'

Author
Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Thursday, 17 May 2018, 4:17PM
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the promised new officers would be fully costed at $140,000 each to be duty ready. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the promised new officers would be fully costed at $140,000 each to be duty ready. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The Police Association has commended the Government after it committed $300 million to boost frontline numbers in a bid to improve community safety and target organised crime.

The increased funding for police was a key election promise and part of Labour's coalition agreement with NZ First.

The coalition Government has promised 1800 new officers, including 1100 more officers on the streets.

The funding in Budget 2018 will enable the recruitment of 920 new officers and 240 support staff.

That was on top of 880 new police officers and 245 support staff which were funded in the previous, National Government Budget last year.

"This $300 million commitment to policing is a serious one that is desperately needed to address the growing pressures on frontline 24/7 staff," said association Vice-President Craig Tickelpenny.

"The frontline should be the first cab off the allocation rank.

"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."

TIckelpenny said Police Minister Stuart Nash had assured the association that the new officers would be fully costed at $140,000 each to be duty ready – including 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," 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."

Tickelpenny said the association would closely watch 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," he said.

"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."

Tickelpenny acknowledged that it would 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," he said.

"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."

Tickelpenny said a 2017 survey of Police Association members revealed that for 38 per cent, staffing shortages were 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," he said.

"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."

Tickelpenny said an analysis of non-suicide mental health 111 calls showed 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.

"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," he explained.

"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."

Other crime and justice sectors were also acknowledged in the 2018 Budget including a total of nearly $10 million committed to the Serious Fraud Office for detecting, investigating and prosecuting cases of serious financial crime.

This includes activities directed at making the commission of financial crimes more difficult, and its detection and prosecution more effective.

Nearly $200m will be spent on urgently building pop-up jail cells to cope with the growing prison population.

The new "rapid build modular units" would be able to fit 600 additional inmates, according to Budget documents.

They will be in place by the end of 2019.

Another $316m over four years will go towards the operating costs related to the growing prison muster.

 

ON AIR: Overnight Talk

12AM - 5AM