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Office of the Commissioner going well 3 years on

24 October 2003 Media Statement

Office of the Commissioner going well three years on

The Office of the Commissioner (OOC) is going strong just over three years after its formation, Police Minister George Hawkins says.

The OOC, formed in July 2000, evolved from the old Police National Headquarters during a period of change which included the end of police regions and the consolidation of 16 police districts into twelve.

Mr Hawkins said the OOC model had proved to be flexible, forward looking and appropriate for policing in the new millennium. Formed just 14 months before September 11, it had been well placed to meet the challenges of a radically altered international landscape.

“September 11 changed everything; it ushered in a whole new ballgame. Since then we have had the Bali bombing closer to home. New Zealand and the way policing is conducted, was not and could not expect to be exempt from a changed international situation,” he said.

During the last three years the OOC had expanded its role as New Zealand police took on greater commitments internationally, moved to secure our borders and met the challenges of changing amounts and type of crime.

New counter terrorism initiatives included increased security and screening measures at airports and increased involvement with overseas counter terrorism entities. New Zealand police had also expanded their presence overseas to meet the growth in international organised crime, bio-security threats, electronic crime and the increased use of methamphetamine-type drugs.

“Gone are the days when police offshore involvement was restricted to Thailand and Sydney. These days New Zealand police work out of Thailand, Australia, Washington DC, London, and Jakarta. Specific staff are assigned to work in the Pacific.”

It was vital New Zealand kept up with the collection and evaluation of foreign and domestic intelligence to prevent this country being used as a haven or transit territory for terrorists and international criminals.

A new Strategic Intelligence Unit of five officers and nine non-sworn staff now worked fulltime on counter-intelligence and trans-national crime information.

As well, kiwi cops were serving or had served in the Solomon Islands, Timor, and Bougainville.

Mr Hawkins said it had to be accepted that there would be a dollar cost associated with meeting such new demands.

“Police numbers in the OOC have risen to respond to increased challenges. The Office has met the demands with new initiatives and I admire what has been achieved.

“I believe the OOC is a professional, modern organisation, well led by a professional, forward thinking Commissioner.”

Domestically, police also continued to achieve.

“Last year police posted a recorded crime resolution rate of 43.7 per cent, the highest rate for 20 years. Compare that with resolution rates under National in the 1990s, when at one point resolution rates reached a low of around 29 per cent,” Mr Hawkins said.

New Zealand’s burglary rates were also at low levels compared with previously. The Highway Patrol continued to prove its worth, with last year’s road toll the lowest in 40 years.

The Government had played its role by increasing Government spending on police, increasing police numbers and providing better equipment, Mr Hawkins said.

“Police numbers are now at their highest ever, the police budget at just over $1 billion is the highest ever, and they have better equipment than ever,” Mr Hawkins said.

As well, police were benefiting from an ongoing capital works programme which had seen numerous new police stations built or refurbished since 2000.

“When the Labour-led Government took office in late 1999, I stopped the Review of Police Administration (or Martin review) commissioned by the National Party.

“That Review’s final report published in 1998 outlined a directive from National to cut hundreds of police jobs, and meet future police costs from anticipated savings of around $35m each year.

“It was necessary to increase police funding and increase staff numbers and the OOC has been part of that reorganisation,” Mr Hawkins said.


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