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NZ First’s Police Flying Squad Tried Before & Was A Disaster

NZ First’s Police Flying Squad tried before - it was a disaster -

“NZ First’s proposal for a Police flying squad has been tried before, and it was a disaster”, says Kim Workman, Adjunct Research Associate at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University

Winston Peters announced the law and order measure in a speech in Whangamata today, saying the squad would be an elite unit under the command of the Police Commissioner. The team would be made up of 56 police officers and 14 support staff, to help communities in trouble with criminals and suffering from crime waves like burglaries and violence."

“In the late 1960’s, mobile Task Forces were set up in the main centres, to deal with increasing violence in communities” says Kim Workman. “The Wellington Task Force only made one visit to Masterton, where I was a police constable, and it created mayhem. We had three complaints about police behaviour, including a serious assault, and it took months to regain public trust. The local Inspector wrote to Police HQ, asking them not to send the flying squad again. Fire Brigade policing as it became known, hardened the crime orientation of the police, compromised public credibility, and tied the police image to a siege mentality.”

“Auckland was far worse. In 1974, the Maori and Pacific community established an unofficial tribunal of two Māori, two Pacific islanders, and two Pākehā, to inquire into a “police innovation, a mobile Task Force set up to deal with increasing violence in the streets and hotels of the inner city of Auckland”. Arrests of Māori and Pacific Islanders were made in disproportionate numbers by the Task Force, and there were dozens of complaints to the tribunal. Members of the Māori community and Commissioner Sharp met in Auckland, with the latter expressing ‘surprise and hurt at the vehemence and hostility of most of the Māori speakers”. The usually mild-mannered anthropologist Joan Metge responded, suggesting that the Commissioner would have been wise to recognise that the paternalistic ethnocentrism of the pākehā in power was itself a major cause of disharmony. The Mobile Squads were eventually closed down.”

“New Zealand First would do well to remember that it is not the job of political parties to determine Police operational policy; (including deciding how many police will be needed). Thankfully, there is a constitutional principle which prevents that. Let’s leave that to the Commissioner of Police, who has to maintain a balance between crime control, and securing public confidence.”


Kettle, M and Bunyan, P. (1980) “The Police Force of the Future is Now Here” New Society, 351

Metge, Joan (1976) The Maoris of New Zealand. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.


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