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King: Police Parade to celebrate five milestones

Hon Annette King
Minister of Police

24 February 2006 Speech Notes

Police Parade to celebrate five milestones


I am sure that every member of the New Zealand Police taking part in this magnificent parade today feels a major sense of achievement and pride.

As Minister of Police, I also feel honoured to be part of this historic occasion, as we celebrate a number of major pending milestones ---- 120 years of the New Zealand Police, 70 years of the Police Pipe Band, 65 years of women in the Police, 50 years of the Police Dog Section, and 25 years of the Royal New Zealand Police College at Porirua.

Clearly, the most important overall is the 120th anniversary, but I must admit, as a woman Police Minister, to special pleasure at the 65th anniversary of women in the New Zealand Police, particularly in the fact that it was the very first Labour Government that made it possible for women to join our police in the first place.

I want to welcome to Parliament grounds all members of the New Zealand Police here today, to acknowledge the chief executives of many government departments, and also to acknowledge parliamentary colleagues and local mayors who have been able to attend.

I have only been Police Minister for a few months, but in those few months I have been greatly impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm I have encountered at all levels of the New Zealand Police, and throughout the great number of roles our society asks police to perform.

I have been moved to listen to staff returning from Afghanistan talk about their experiences; on another day I have observed first-hand the respect with which police are held for their work with youth at risk; and on yet another I have witnessed and admired the remarkable skills of those working in our busy call centres.

I have also witnessed police bravery close up, as police have tackled a potentially violent and dangerous incident calmly and and with great composure and good sense.

In fact, I believe that at today’s parade it is appropriate to pay tribute to the 26 police officers who have been killed as a result of a criminal act during the 120 years of policing, and to the hundreds of others who have been injured.

Many other police have also died while on duty, and just last night the dangerous nature of much police work was reinforced when three members of the North Shore Policing Unit were overcome by fumes when they came across a methamphetamine lab in the boot of a car.

Thankfully, all three have now been discharged from hospital, and are resting at home, but the incident, happening as it did on the same day the P hikoi reached Parliament, underlines the huge problem society faces in combating the drug.

Greedy people have no compunction in putting at risk the lives of neighbours, children, police and other innocent people, but there will be no let up in policing of this issue until the scourge is no longer with us.

But to return to today’s celebration, it is no wonder everyone here feels so proud, and one of the proudest of all is undoubtedly Acting Commissioner Steve Long, who will shortly talk in more detail about the individual anniversaries and also about some of his own memories of New Zealand policing.

I am proud to be Minister of Police today for two reasons.

The first is an obvious one, as we acknowledge the role and importance of police in our society, and what they have achieved over the past 120 years.

The second reason is because this parade is also a symbolic occasion marking the largest police recruiting drive in our country’s history.
If police have played a hugely significant role in our society over the past 120 years, then that role is about to become even more significant over the next three years as we add 1000 more sworn, frontline officers, plus the infrastructure to support them, and some 250 more non-sworn police as well.

The initiative is a vital component of the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First, and reflects our determination to ensure New Zealand communities become as safe as possible for all our people.
The 1000 sworn, frontline officers will include 250 community police who will all work as frontline officers, identifying and addressing issues in their communities. Work is currently being done on re-defining the role of community police, and I am sure that they will play an even more significant role in the future as the next stage of the New Zealand police story unfolds.
I mentioned that this parade is of symbolic importance to the recruitment drive, and I mean by that that it provides an insight into the value New Zealanders place on police, and the sense of value police feel about themselves and about their job.
We all know that it is not going to be easy recruiting so many more police over such a relatively short time, but it will be easier if New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, witness at first hand just how satisfying and rewarding the job is.

We would be burying our heads in the sands of history if we tried to pretend that the police/public interface is always smooth. We know that is not so, that police will always expect to be criticised if they fail to meet public expectations in any way, but too often, I believe, the criticisms are unfair and ill-judged.

That is why I was so pleased to read a poll in last week’s Sunday Star-Times, where seventy three percent (73 per cent) of respondents believed police are criticised too much in New Zealand.

That is a very large percentage indeed, and it suggests two things to me. Firstly, most New Zealanders respect our police; and, secondly, those who try to undermine that respect, without ascertaining the facts, need to ask themselves what good they think they are trying to achieve.

Today is a day for celebration, however. I think it is certainly a day on which it is appropriate to ask ourselves what it is we expect from police in this country.

I was very interested before Christmas to read Susan Butterworth’s fifth volume of policing in New Zealand, entitled More than Law and Order.

In her introduction, Susan wrote that while authoritarian states can generally define clearly what policing is all about, in a democracy like ours it is not so easy to find two people who can agree on a satisfactory definition of police work.

As Susan says, and I quote, “a policeman’s role is, in fact, what a policeman does.” End of quote.

The thing is that everyone thinks they know what the police role is, but the scope of their role is so huge that it is unlikely any two people would ever be able to detail all aspects of the job.

And, as far as I am concerned, that is a real strength of policing in New Zealand.

I say that because there is inherently in our police model a flexibility, a willingness over 120 years of history to grow and adapt to changing circumstances. This means the New Zealand Police are well suited to respond to whatever public expectations are placed upon them.

As I said, Steve Long will now talk in more detail about his own memories of New Zealand policing, and about the individual anniversaries that are occurring this year. All the groups represented here deserve our enthusiastic recognition.

Thank you again for the honour of reviewing your parade today. I wish everyone well for this year’s anniversaries and safety and satisfaction in the years ahead. The people we are about to recruit will be joining an institution with a sterling history and an even more positive future to come.

This Government is proud to have been a strong part of police history in New Zealand, and we are even prouder to be part of the New Zealand Police future as well.

ENDS

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