King: Second reading: Policing Bill
6 August, 2008
Second reading: Policing Bill
I move that the Policing Bill be read a second time.
Madam Speaker, when I first introduced the Bill in February this year, I noted it contains the most far-reaching legislative proposals on policing to come before the House in half a century.
I also drew attention to the multiple strands of public consultation, testing and refinement which have threaded together in the Bill; meaning it represents a largely consensus view.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the members of the Law and Order Committee for the constructive way they approached the fine-tuning of the Bill. The draft legislation has been strengthened as a result, and I wish to draw attention to some of the more significant changes heralded by the Bill.
First, the Bill provides an important acknowledgement that trust and confidence in Police hinges on policing being conducted in a principled way. Clause 8 identifies six principles which are broadly agreed to be important in the New Zealand policing tradition. They include:
· acting impartially;
· upholding high standards of ethics, integrity and professionalism; and
· providing a national service linked strongly with local people and communities.
The Bill also recognises police cannot and do not act alone in responding effectively to safety and security needs. This is why clause 10 of the Bill highlights the roles played by a range of partner organisations, as well as the efforts of individuals, families and communities. For example, we see real progress being made where police work in partnership with groups like Maori wardens and community patrols, and where collaborative links are formed with the private security industry.
I also want to draw attention to clause 16, which clarifies the relative areas of authority of the Police Commissioner and Minister of Police. In future, we will not need to rely solely on custom, convention or case-law to understand where the line is drawn between the legitimate roles of the chief of police and Ministers of the Crown (or those who act for them). This is a major step forward, and is strongly supported by constitutional experts.
Madam Speaker, this Bill also contains a number of provisions which are designed to support the operational effectiveness of Police. While time constraints do not allow me to review these in detail, I do want to briefly highlight clauses 32 to 34 of the Bill, which update powers relating to the identification of suspected offenders who have been lawfully detained by police.
For instance, clause 33 will allow frontline police to obtain a suspected offender’s identifying details without the need for the person to be physically arrested, facilitating use of summons and other notices to commence proceedings. This improvement should reduce the opportunity for people to provide false identities; and, in turn, prevent precious time and resources being wasted in the justice system while the law catches up with offenders.
Finally, Madam Speaker, I want to single out three aspects of the Bill’s personnel provisions which will support the Commissioner’s ability to employ a modern Police workforce.
First and foremost, the Bill provides clearer recognition of the office of constable, and reinforces its central place in the New Zealand system of policing, but it breaks with old-style thinking which assumes we need to run two parallel employment frameworks for general Police staff and those who are constables. Part 4 of the Bill confidently takes Police into the mainstream environment, where all Police staff work under a unified system for setting terms and conditions of employment. This is a sensible evolution, and long overdue.
Secondly, the Bill gives a statutory basis to a Code of Conduct for all Police staff, reinforcing the importance of ethics and integrity in the way policing is done in New Zealand.
Thirdly, I want to highlight the way the Bill provides greater assurance about the skills and qualifications of the men and women empowered to perform particular policing functions. Unlike the situation under the 1958 Act, the Bill will introduce an explicit requirement that a person who is appointed as a constable or authorised officer is adequately trained and capable of exercising their powers. While this has always been a legitimate expectation, proposed clauses 22 (2) and 22 (4) will make it a statutory requirement that recipients of policing powers and duties are suitably qualified to discharge their assigned responsibilities.
Madam Speaker, the Policing Bill contains important innovations, but also carries through cherished traditions. The Bill reforms the legal structure under which New Zealand Police is mandated and organised, and will better enable Police to face future challenges.
The Bill as a whole is welcomed by the men and women who serve in the New Zealand Police, and it’s been particularly pleasing to see such a wide measure of public support coming from the Police staff associations and community at large.
I now call upon members from all sides of this House to add their backing to a Bill which promises to help ensure both Kiwis and visitors to our country continue to receive the highest standards of policing. I commend the Bill to the House.