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Cell guards not trained in suicide prevention

Simon Power MP
National Party Law & Order Spokesman

16 July 2006

Cell guards not trained in suicide prevention

Prisoners are being guarded in police cells by security officers who are not trained in suicide prevention, says National’s Law & Order spokesman, Simon Power.

"Answers from Police Minister Annette King confirm that security guards are there to only monitor the prisoners - they do not get suicide-watch training.

“This is concerning, especially considering the number of people being held in police cells, many of them mentally ill and in need of extra care.

“The Police themselves estimate that between 125,000 and 140,000 will go through their cells in 2006/07, of which 7,000 to 8,000 will have either a mental illness or a disability.

"We are entering dangerous territory if many of them are being guarded by untrained people.

“Even Police Commissioner Howard Broad has been quoted as saying there is widespread concern about mental health patients being held in police cells.

“Annette King says the security guards will raise the alarm if there is a problem, but if they have not been trained to recognise the signs, it may be too late by the time they notice something is wrong.

"Not only are prisoners' lives being put at risk because guards are untrained, but the guards and Police could be opening themselves up to a legal minefield.

“At the very least, everyone guarding police cells should be adequately trained."

Attachment: Parliamentary Question 7889

7889 (2006). Simon Power to the Minister of Police (23 June 2006):
Do security guards contracted by the New Zealand Police for the purposes of supervising prisoners in police cells undergo training in custodial suicide prevention?
Hon Annette King (Minister of Police) replied: Hon Annette King (Minister of Police) replies:
Further to my interim response I am advised that security guards are deployed to monitor prisoners only. In the event of an incident they raise the alarm with available police staff.

Page from Police Statement of Intent 2006/07

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June 2006 Police News clipping

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