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National quick to pin 'blame' for less crime

National quick to pin 'blame' for less crime, lower road toll

National's unprecedented attack on the independence of the Police Commissioner has masked its own failure to spell-out exactly what it will do to Police numbers and resources, Police Minister George Hawkins said today.

"The moment politicians start to try and push police chiefs around over the running of police operations, is the moment we start to lurch towards a politically-controlled police state," said Mr Hawkins.

"I have always avoided interference in police operational matters and my strong advice is for Dr Brash to do the same. Instead of trying to heavy the Commissioner into signing-up to National's political agenda, Dr Brash should be congratulating him and his officers on having achieved the lowest crime rate in twenty years and the lowest road tolls in 40 years.

"Instead of bagging a senior public servant, Dr Brash should come clean about National's plans for Police staff. The public would be right to be alarmed about Dr Brash's reticence; the last time National controlled the Treasury benches, it slashed 140 police jobs as the first wave in a plan to cut Police numbers by 540.

"The election of the Labour-led government in 1999 put an end to that penny-pinching nonsense and since then we have increased Police numbers every year and boosted the Police budget by 19.7 per cent. There are now 1080 more Police staff than in 1999 and the total budget has reached $1.06 billion.

"The one thing National has pledged to do, post-election, is take Police off our roads, in a move certain to return New Zealand to the bloody carnage of pre-1999 road tolls," said Mr Hawkins.

"The emphasis this Government has placed on traffic policing has helped result in the road toll falling to levels last experienced by New Zealand in the 1960s. If Dr Brash is prepared to sacrifice that success, then he should acknowledge that it will result in many more deaths and injuries on the roads.

"Lives are being saved on the roads every day as a result of our traffic policing policies. And – despite the outrageous claims by the Opposition – this has not come at the expense of general policing duties. Crime fell 8.2 per cent last year alone and we now have the lowest crime rate in more than twenty years.

"If Dr Brash is sincere about making New Zealand a safer place to live in then he should be up-front about how he intends to make that happen. Then voters can decide whether they want the reality of the safer roads, safer communities that Labour has delivered – or the politically-run police force and 'no speed limit' road carnage that National's promising.

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