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SSC steps into Police Minister vs Commissioner

Tony Ryall National Police Spokesman

24 June 2001

SSC steps into conflict between Police Minister and Commissioner

The latest war of wills between the meddling George Hawkins and the Commissioner of Police over whether or not there will be another search in the Tory Channel raises questions about the state of the relationship between the two, National's Police Spokesman Tony Ryall said today.

"This war of wills has been going on for months. Policing in New Zealand is suffering as a result.

"Clearly the two are not getting on. Things are so tense that a special taskforce of public servants has been set up to sort it out. All the while, police morale is plummeting and violent crime is rising.

"Papers obtained by National under the Official Information Act show a taskforce of the Treasury, State Services Commission, Police, and the Ministry of Justice has been set up to clarify independence and governance arrangements between the Police and the Minister.

"The Police Commissioner is refusing to make public any of the taskforce's work.

"Sources within Police tell me the taskforce flows out of the bust-up between the two over the Minister's drive for cost-cutting last year. Papers released at the time showed a testy exchange of letters between the two. Mr Hawkins was meddling and over-stepping the line announcing cost-saving measures including making recruits pay for their training.

"More recently came the Colin McLean Affair. Questioning at Select Committee has revealed that even though Mr Hawkins raised the issue with him directly, the Commissioner did not advise his Minister that only a few hours earlier Police had served papers on McLean to suspend him without pay. Unaware Mr Hawkins then went on to make a fool of himself on television denying the Police had the power to suspend without pay.

"On Friday, Mr Hawkins stepped in and told IRN and TVNZ's Holmes show that there would definitely be another search of the Tory Channel to find the nature of the two objects identified by the Navy. Clearly the Minister hadn't called the Commissioner, and the Commissioner had not called his Minister. In the end, Mr Hawkins looked totally confused and bewildered.

"With police morale falling and violent crime rising, we need the Police totally focused on targeting crime. A war of wills between the two is diverting energy and attention away from making our homes and streets safer. The answer is for Mr Hawkins to stop meddling," Mr Ryall said.

Ends

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