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Police Independence In Jeopardy

Cabinet is today considering sweeping changes to the statutory independence of the Police Commissioner, National's Police spokesman Tony Ryall said.

Papers obtained by National under the Official Information Act show that the Government wants to 'redefine areas of responsibility and independence' and is proposing changing mechanisms for performance review and setting remuneration for the Police Commissioner.

"The Government wants to change the law so they can have greater influence over Police actions. Any move in this direction will be a breach of the police independence that has been respected by both major political parties for decades.

"Justice Ministry papers show the Government will actually be able to direct the Commissioner on staffing issues if Ministers think those decisions are against the Government's 'policy' interests.

"The proposal has been pushed by George Hawkins and the State Services Commission but strongly opposed by the Police Commissioner and the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry of Justice warns that SSC proposals could see the Police Commissioner dismissed for political reasons.

"This is part of Police Minister George Hawkins' ongoing dispute with the Commissioner of Police. The papers include proposals to 'clarify the areas of authority of the Commissioner of Police and the Minister of Police'," Mr Ryall said.

The proposals include making the Police Commissioner's performance criteria and pay subject to negotiation with the State Services Commissioner and the Prime Minister and State Services Minister.

"National is strongly opposed to the Government's plans. We think this will put politics into policing and that's bad for New Zealand," Mr Ryall said.

Ends


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