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Alarm Over Police Health and Safety Cutbacks in Light of Ministerial Expectations

The Hatikvah Blue Hope Foundation expresses deep concern and dismay at the New Zealand Police's recent decision to implement significant cutbacks in health and safety support across various police districts, a short time following a crucial directive from the Minister of Police, Mark Mitchell.

On 6 December, Minister Mitchell issued a letter of expectation to the Police Commissioner, emphasising the government's commitment to backing frontline police staff. The Minister articulated, "I am committed to backing the frontline to ensure they have the tools and resources they need, and most importantly, they are safe." This commitment directly responds to the essential role police frontline staff play in fostering safer communities.

Contrary to this directive, NZ Police announced a concerning policy to limit wellness, health and safety support to instances of critical incidents only. This decision not only neglects the ongoing mental health risks prevalent among police workers, including a notable rise in PTSD and a recent spike in suicides within the police frontline, but also appears to contradict the Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA), especially Section 22, which is about making sure workplaces are safe. It says that employers must do what is reasonably possible to ensure health and safety. This involves looking at:

  1. How likely a risk is and how severe any harm could be.
  2. What is already known about these risks?
  3. Ways to reduce or remove these risks.
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After identifying the risks, employers need to demonstrate:

  • How can they either eliminate these risks or make them smaller?
  • Including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

The Foundation finds it incredible that within a short time of the Minister's clear directive, NZ Police have breached this letter of expectation, potentially undermining the Minister's vision of a well-supported and safe police frontline.

Additionally, the New Zealand Police's participation in the Health and Safety Leaders Forum, which advocates for cultures that enhance safety and contribute to overall success, is now called into question. Given the recent events contradicting the forum's core principles, is this involvement mere tokenism?

The penalties for breaching Section 22 of the HSWA, including fines and reputational damage, are significant. However, the actual cost lies in the potential harm to our police workers' mental and physical well-being.

The Hatikvah Blue Hope Foundation strongly urges the New Zealand Police to reconsider its stance and realign its policies with the Ministerial expectations and the obligations under the HSWA. Our police workers must receive the full extent of health and safety support, reflective of a genuine commitment to their well-being and the safety of our communities.

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