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Royal New Zealand Police College - PM Speech

Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Helen Clark

Royal New Zealand Police College, 25th Anniversary Dinner, Police College, Porirua

I would like to thank Acting Commissioner Steve Long for the invitation to speak here tonight at the official celebration of the Royal New Zealand Police College's 25th anniversary. Thank you also to Training Commander Superintendent Olly Beckett and all your staff who are here tonight.

I would also like to acknowledge the Police College's first Training Commander, retired Superintendent Maurice Cummings, who has shared his insights into the early days of the Police College here in Porirua.

When the New Zealand Police Force was formed in 1886 there was no structured, co-ordinated training for new officers. The first centralised training began in 1898 at the Mt Cook Police Station. When the national training centre moved down to Lyttelton in 1953, I understand that there was just one instructor, Senior Sergeant Ted Hotham.

Now, the Royal New Zealand Police College employs approximately 260 staff. This expansion not only reflects the growth in New Zealand's population, but also the increasing professionalism of the police.

I understand that in 1998 the New Zealand Police joined the Australian Police Professional Standards Council, which aims to improve police professionalism.

Another example of the commitment to increased professionalism is the agreement reached in 2000, between the New Zealand Police and Victoria University, to provide purpose designed tertiary courses for police staff.

Ongoing training in specialist areas, and refresher training courses on offer here at the College, mean police officers continue to develop skills throughout their career in the force. This commitment to higher education and ongoing training is very much in line with our government's focus on creating a knowledge-based economy and society.

A professional, honest police force is a critical asset for any nation - and our force is looked to as a model by many. New Zealand Police continue to be in demand offshore, and have been sent in recent years to Bougainville, the Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, and Niue.

The Police College is at the forefront of building New Zealand Police relationships with overseas jurisdictions, including training arrangements with many Pacific nations. As well, every year the Police College hosts many international visitors from police and related services. In recent years, I understand there has been a significant increase in the number of visits to the Police College from South East Asian countries.

The New Zealand Police are known, both overseas and here at home, for being a proud, disciplined, and loyal force, and for having a strong ethos of service to the community.

Despite this well-earned reputation, it is inevitable that interactions between the Police and the public will not always be smooth, and that the Police will come under intense scrutiny at times. In recent years that scrutiny has generated criticism which at times has been unfair and even destructive.

I want to acknowledge the continued professionalism of the Police under this pressure, and their determination to deliver good service to the community. Our crime rate is at its lowest since 1982, and we have the highest crime resolution rate since 1987. These results could not be achieved without the hard work of the Police.

Our Police Force serves communities which are changing fast and becoming much more ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse. The government fully supports the efforts the Police are making to recruit across our diverse communities. Also commendable are the efforts the Police are making to be responsive to the many ethnicities, cultures and faiths in New Zealand today.

As well as training recruits to serve an increasingly diverse community, the Police College will in the future be training even more police officers. This year will see the largest police recruiting drive in New Zealand's history.

The Government is determined to ensure that New Zealand communities are as safe as possible for all our people. As part of our confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First, we are committed to add another 1000 extra staff to police ranks over the next three years.

That means that this College expects to train approximately 2,800 recruits over the next three or so years, as well as maintaining senior police training for approximately 7,000 staff who will attend senior courses.

It is not straightforward recruiting so many more Police in a relatively short time, but the task is made easier when potential recruits can see how satisfying and rewarding policing can be. I understand that the Police College will be hosting an open day this Saturday, with a number of displays from specialist police groups, which will be of great interest to visitors.

The prospect of having more Police serving an ever more diverse community has prompted our government to address the future direction of policing in New Zealand. Earlier this month the Minister of Police, Annette King, announced a wide-ranging review of the Police Act. The goal is to bring the legislation up to date to reflect our changing communities and police practices. A wide consultation process is planned to ensure that there is a strong community stake in the future of policing in New Zealand.

Our objective is to see the highest possible public trust and confidence in the New Zealand Police, and to see its integrity maintained as one of the most corruption-free Police services in the western world.

The Royal New Zealand Police College plays a critical role in ensuring that New Zealand continues to have a world class police service. It is here that new police officers develop the skills they need to meet the personal and professional challenges which they will inevitably face on the job.

Thank you to the College for the vital work you do. I wish the College well for its next 25 years.


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