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King: Community Patrols national training seminar

Community Patrols of NZ national training seminar

Speech in which the "decoy cop" story is set straight.

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The first thing I should say today is that Rotorua is the place where I started to learn my policing skills.

Joking aside, one privilege of being Police Minister is that you get the opportunity to witness aspects of policing first hand, and, in doing so, I might add, it does not take very long at all to gain considerable respect for the work done by the men and women of NZ Police.

In the time I have been Police Minister I have been out in "I" cars, I have been out in road policing cars, I have watched police dogs at work and I have observed a police exercise to deal with boy racers in Christchurch.

I have also spent some hours on the side of the road during a booze bus operation in South Auckland.

However, the first time I went out with police was when Rotorua Area Commander Bruce Horne took me out in a car one night in November last year, and although I'm pleased to report there was not a great deal happening that night, I was certainly impressed when Bruce attended a tense domestic dispute and quickly and efficiently defused the situation before it could deteriorate.

I was grateful that I was able to stay safely in the car while he did his work!

In some way, I guess the few fleeting experiences I have had mirror some of what you as community patrols witness and experience on a regular basis, and they certainly have helped me appreciate the significant role you play by giving your time to help make our communities safer. I am told you now have over 80 affiliated patrols and are still growing every day.

I want to thank Community Patrols of New Zealand and individual patrols both for the invitation to join you today, and for the wonderful support you provide for police in helping them meet their strategic goals of community safety and crime reduction.

I want firstly to acknowledge Neil Sole, who came to see me at Parliament in February. I can testify that Neil is a very strong advocate indeed for Community Patrols New Zealand. I intend to meet Neil and members of his executive on a regular basis.

I also want to acknowledge my friend and Rotorua MP Steve Chadwick and thank her for her welcome today, my other parliamentary colleagues Simon Power and Richard Worth, and Police Commissioner Howard Broad.

Commissioner Broad has a long experience in working with communities and we have met to discuss how NZ Police can strengthen its relationship with important organisations like CPNZ.

I want to talk briefly today about community policing and where I see Community Patrols of New Zealand fitting into that broader picture.

I see you as one essential cog in a network of organisations, also including NZ Police, of course, Neighbourhood Support, Victim Support and concerned and caring individuals, all of whom contribute to the safety of New Zealanders, because we know from experience that a police force alone cannot provide all the assurance communities need.

I'm sure Howard Broad will discuss community policing issues with you today, but from the Government's view, it is certainly worth reiterating that our bottom line expectation is that community safety - the safety of New Zealand families - will be enhanced in several ways; firstly, over the next three years, as we add 1250 more police, 1000 of them sworn staff, and 250 non sworn, to the ranks of NZ Police.

There are doubters out there who question our ability to recruit that that many more police. But no matter what they say, I am confident that we will succeed in getting there and finding the many hundreds of fine New Zealanders we need to join our police.

It is a challenge and it does mean a concerted effort by NZ police and it does mean mobilising as many people and organisations as possible to assist in the recruitment drive. I find it hard to believe that there are some, in particular political opponents, who are more interested in firing pot-shots at the commitment to boost police numbers than in getting in behind the campaign. I have no doubt New Zealanders can see behind the motivations

The money is certainly already committed under our Confidence & Supply Agreement with New Zealand First. The initiative is expected to cost $387 million altogether in operating costs over the next four years and $114 million in capital spending, and it is money the Government and NZ First believe has to be spent to reinforce our shared commitment to safer communities. I know you share that commitment as well.

We don't just want a greater police presence in our communities, though that is clearly really important to make families feel more secure. We also have to ensure we use the NZ police as effectively as possible, and that is where CPNZ and other community-based organisations come in.

Community patrols, as the eyes and ears of the police, are certainly one of the keys as police around the country place greater emphasis on evidence-based crime and crash policing so that we can reduce the number of victims.

The more eyes and ears police have, the more successfully police can focus on early intervention; and, without over-simplifying the issues, the more we can prevent bad things happening, the better it is for all of us.

I returned just last week from visits, accompanied by senior New Zealand police staff, to a number of overseas police jurisdictions. The main purpose of our visit was to examine various models of community policing as NZ Police looks to redefine the way it carries out this function. This is something the government has made a commitment to.

The notion of "eyes and ears" was certainly reinforced for me during discussions with Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police in London. He talked about the importance of community intelligence in the wake of the July bombings in London, and prior to the subsequent failed bombing attempt a few weeks later.

I cannot speak for the police staff who were with me, but as far as I am concerned, while we saw much of relevance and interest in terms of community policing during our visits, I have certainly come back reassured of the robustness of professionalism and skills within NZ Police.

While we can borrow ideas from others, I am convinced that the brand of community policing we develop here will be distinctively Kiwi in its approach and application. We have a proud tradition in our country of combining the resources of central and local government with the human resources, talent and skills of volunteers.

New Zealanders like to contribute, to give back to communities who may have helped them at some time. Community Patrols New Zealand epitomises that tradition and we are the richer for it.

The philosophy behind community policing is the same everywhere, however, and one comment Sir Ian made stays with me. Talking about the reduction in crime in the London metropolitan police area after one year of the Met's new community policing model, he attributed it largely to people feeling safe to move about their communities again, particularly at night.

And when people move about their communities - ordinary people like you and me in this room - then we become eyes and ears. We cannot be the eyes and ears if we shut ourselves behind closed doors.

And that brings me back to the work done by community patrols. Last month I addressed a very large neighbourhood support meeting in Levin and I was able to tell them that I believed financial support should be provided for a national coordination role, alongside the wide range of support provided by NZ police.

Neil Sole raised the support given to your organisation with me in February. We spoke about the Memorandum of Understanding with NZ police and the "in kind" help that Police provide; from travel to accommodation at the Royal NZ Police College. The MOU promotes a collaborative working relationship sets standards, encourages research training and info sharing. Neil has since written to me and has asked about further assistance for CPNZ.

I know your organisation has other needs, and I have discussed these with the Commissioner and he has set aside additional resources for you. I urge you to approach the Commissioner with a specific proposal so that further help can be provided. You will find a very receptive Commissioner, as he too wants to help CPNZ's involvement grow with NZ police.

The mix of people who make up our community policing team includes, as I said, sworn officers to volunteers, each with an important part to play. Recently my Parliamentary colleague Simon Power has had some fun labelling temporary sworn police staff as "decoy cops." I suppose he could say the same about you as well, if he stretched a long bow

I certainly do not see community patrols as "decoy cops" and nor do I see temporary sworn officers in that way. In fact, I'm not sure what the term "decoy cops" is supposed to mean.

But there is a problem when you deride people who are doing a valuable job freeing up police for the sort of frontline tasks New Zealanders want them to perform.

Therefore I would like to set the "decoy cop" story straight.

For over twenty years, under both governments, National and Labour, temporary sworn police have been used to assist police in specified duties. Until 2003/04 nobody bothered to count the numbers. Nobody questioned his or her use or value. Nobody used them for political point scoring.

I respect the work the valuable work they are doing. They are used in escorting prisoners, acting as jailers and helping protect crime scenes, roles that have been done by private security companies.

In my view, if they can responsibly do more tasks that do not have to be done by frontline sworn staff, then that makes sense too. As a former Health Minister, I see it very much like the second-tier nurse who undertakes some nursing tasks and frees up the registered nurse to carry out the more complex tasks.

During the decoy cop debate one fact that the Christchurch Press and the Police Association drew attention to was the lack of consistency in the uniforms these staff are wearing. I agree, and was pleased to find NZ police had been working for some time on designing a special uniform.

That uniform is now available, and you may have seen it. It will be worn in a consistent manner across all police districts and makes it clear these staff members are employees of NZ police but are not sworn uniformed officers.

They receive training for their role and the level of training reflects the tasks they undertake.

Temporary sworn officers, like community patrols, and like neighbourhood support, will continue to make up part of the team working together to keep our communities safe.

It is appropriate that this training seminar is being held in Rotorua because community patrols are certainly alive and well in the Bay of Plenty, with great work being done in particular by the Night Owls and
Day Larks in Taupo, and the Western Heights and Ngongotaha patrols in Rotorua.

I look forward to continuing to work with you all in the future, and thank you again very much for inviting me to join you today.


ENDS

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