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Volunteer Police Squad Raises Hackles

Harvey's Call For Volunteer Police Squad Raises Hackles

by Selwyn Manning

Squads of volunteer police would be used to keep law and order under an idea promoted by Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey.

Mr Harvey says council policing would be made up of volunteers assigned the keep the peace, make arrests, and investigate crimes of dishonesty and moderate violence.

The Scoop understands the issue will be raised during Parliament’s question time today at 2pm.

The revelations show a major push by his council and that of Auckland and Wellington cities to set up a council police force to replace the current centrally directed and the regional organisational policing structure.

Mr Harvey said this morning that a squad of up to 700 “volunteers” is ready to be called on in Waitakere City alone. He says Rodney District has around 200 volunteers who can be called on to police that north Auckland district.

Serious crime would likely be referred to specialist detective squads for investigation, similar to the USA’s Federal bureau of Investigation.

Labour police spokesperson, George Hawkins, says the frustration of Mayors from major metropolitan areas at the Government's failure to control crime is understandable.

"It is not a new concern but has been building over the last nine years. Local bodies are frustrated over crime levels and say policing has gone off the boil. They see the loss of experienced police officers, remaining staff weighed down with paperwork and unable to respond to crimes like burglary and car conversion, and community policing under threat from the Police Review.”

But Mr Hawkins was cold on Mr Harvey’s claim that he has a team of 700 volunteers ready to step into the police’s shoes.

Mr Hawkins says: “The New Zealand police force is an invaluable asset to every community, if effectively utilised.”

But Local Government Maurice Williamson says Waitakere mayor Bob Harvey is well off the mark in claiming the Police force should be bulk-funded and brought under the control of Local Authorities.

"I'm totally opposed to this crazy idea. It's actually been tried in a minor way in the past with some Local Authorities running their own traffic services in the late 1980s.”

Mr Harvey wants councils to be given back immediately the role of traffic enforcement. That, he says, will be a good step toward returning New Zealand’s largest cities to a lawful state.

Mr Williamson disagrees: "But it [council traffic enforcement] turned out to be a disaster with major problems such as the crossing of boundaries to administer it. For example, if a speeding car crosses from Auckland to the North Shore, who then chases it?"

Mr Harvey also referred to similar systems being used in other countries such as Australia and the United States.

"These comparisons are irrelevant because some of the cities in the United States and even Australia are bigger than our entire country. As a country of 3.5 million people, we have to run our Police force as a national service."

Labour’s Mr Hawkins says change is needed.

"The next Labour Government will deliver a performance-focused police force, with a new system of crime reduction targets. These targets will be specifically concerned with catching criminals and solving crimes, with the community involved at a local level to prioritise areas of particular concern. Local police commanders will be authorised to deploy police accordingly.

"Labour will establish a Community Safety Office (CSO), an independent review unit which, in consultation with communities, will allow community feedback and input regarding the strategic direction of policing. This will ensure that local priorities are set locally, with community involvement, and that communities will see their concerns targeted in their neighbourhoods.”

Mr Hawkins says Mr Harvey has identified a “major flaw” in New Zealand’s current approach to policing. The existing police policy, he says, fails to cater to the particular
needs of particular regions, cities, towns or suburbs.

What is needed, Mr Hawkins says is for police service to match the needs and priorities of individual communities.

© Scoop Media

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