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George Hawkins Speech To Police Assoc. 69th Conf.



Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today and open your 69th Conference.

I'd like to begin by passing on the best wishes of the Prime Minister, who has asked me express her appreciation for the good work of the police.

Before we begin, I'd like to acknowledge first up the superb efforts of the police during the devastating floods earlier this year.

I'd also like to congratulate Greg O'Connor on his confirmation as your President for a further three years.

I understand this will make Greg the longest serving president in the 68-year history of the Association, and that's a great achievement.

This is the fifth year I've had the chance to address your Conference, and it's good to again see so many familiar faces.

Conferences such as these are important for a number of reasons, not the least being that they are a chance to on the one hand reflect back over the past year, and on the other hand, to look ahead.

The Labour-led government came into office in December 1999, or nearly five years ago.

Looking back at the end of half a decade of this Government's stewardship, I have two comments to make:

The first is how proud I am of New Zealand police.

We live in a country with a modern, respected, professional, well trained, well educated, well-led police.

I sometimes wonder if the public take that for granted.

Sadly, there are countries in the world where that is not only far from reality, it has never been a reality and doesn't look like being a reality in the near future.

There are countries still where one of the most feared names in the land is that of the Police Commissioner, or the head of the Defence Force or the head of the Secret Service.

How wonderful that we live in a country where such names would certainly not terrify the general public.

The second comment I'd like to make is that there has been a deliberate commitment by this government to support you to do your job by providing you with the means to do it.

These are the two sides of the equation and I believe it's an approach that's paid off.

The recent crime statistics, which show crime rates at their lowest since 1983, confirm what police, supported by a committed Government, can achieve.

Police are doing a magnificent job.

I am heartened to see the positive way police get alongside their communities and work with them.

I don't need to tell you how far good community relations go in stopping crime, or nipping crime in the bud before it gets a chance to establish.

Results in my own area of Manurewa are a case in point.

There, your Vice-President Richard Middleton has shown how working with the community, lateral thinking, determination and effective proactive policing can drive crime rates down.

The focus has been on getting crooks behind bars and it's worked.

Crime rates in New Zealand have been trending downwards over the last few years.

As well as enjoying the lowest overall crime rates since 1983, New Zealand police resolution rates are among the highest in the world.

At 45.1 percent this year, our resolution rate far outstrips the London Metropolitan Police resolution rate, which has been stable at around 23.5 percent for several years.

I came into this job believing that for police to be able to do their job, they needed to be well resourced and I took a comprehensive view of how far that extended.

To me it included not just more police, or bricks and mortar, but encouraging a greater ethnicity mix and a better gender balance.

Again, an organisation that better reflects our increasingly diverse society is a strongly resourced police better able to understand, move among and maintain contacts within our community.

Currently, police numbers are at their highest ever, with around 7519 sworn officers and 2330 non-sworn staff as at the end of last month.

Today, women make up 28 percent of total police staff, compared with 26 percent in June 1991.

The ethnicity profile is also changing, with police actively targeting more Maori, Pacific Island and Asian recruits.

This country has never had more police, including Auckland where most of the country's population lives.

The current attrition rate among sworn officers is also a source of pride, and at around 4.3 percent annually would be the envy of most organisations.

At more than $1b a year, the police budget has never been higher.

Nor does resourcing just mean better vehicles for example, although last October I did announce that the police vehicle purchase programme would increase by up to $29.2m for each of the next three financial years.

It's a programme that has seen the doubling of annual capital expenditure on the vehicle fleet, and you will notice there's less old dungers with thousands of ks on the speedo in the police parking lots than before.

We all spend a great deal of time at work.

Well resourced police I also interpret as meaning operating out of decent work places should be a priority for you.

As architects would agree, workplace environments matter, because comfortable, well designed buildings help rather than hinder people in their work.

Since December 1999 when this government took office, 11 brand new Police stations have been opened.

There's even a great new station in my own electorate of Manurewa.

In the next fortnight, I'll be opening new stations in Richmond and Morrinsville.
Thirteen more new stations are currently being built or are in the planning stages and there's another 8 in the pipeline.

The budget spend on police building programme is in excess of $73m over 5 years.

Compare over $73m over five years with an average of $720,000 spent over the last half of the 1990s.

When it comes to refurbishment, 48 stations had been upgraded since December 1999 as at June this year, with about $1.89 million per year spent on refurbishments over $5000.

Some new stations, like the one at Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast, have even won design awards, which must make a departure from the past.

The building programme means that areas like Oamaru, Great Barrier Island, Invercargill, and Ohakune, to name only a few, have new police stations.

Work is almost complete on the new Glen Innes station and funding has been approved for a new North Shore station and the Counties Manukau head quarters.

Other stations have been glad to have had their workplaces upgraded or refurbished.

This government has also made sure you've had the legislation back up you need.

This includes the recent passing of several key pieces of legislation, for example:
- the Parole Act
- the Sentencing Act
- the reclassification of methamphetamine to a Class A drug
- the Crimes Amendment Act
- and the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act

all have further strengthened your ability to effectively combat crime.

A new series of computer-related crimes are in place to assist in areas including hacking.

Changes made to police interception powers.

The inclusion of burglary and entering with intent as offences for which compulsory samples can be taken has also been of great use.

But it is in the area of matching DNA samples that has been the headline grabber of late.

DNA matching has continued to prove its worth with the resolution of a number of high profile cases in recent times.

These include the conviction of the killers of Teresa McCORMACK and Maureen McKINNELL and the conviction of the South Auckland serial rapist.

The outlook for continued 'hits' from DNA matches looks positive with the extension of compulsory testing for serious offenders convicted before the introduction of DNA and who are still in jail.

ESR has worked closely in this area, and has supplied forensic services to police since 1992.

This year, ESR has seconded overseas experts to assist with clan lab analysis.

Since 15 April 2004, under the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act, police have been able to take DNA samples from burglary suspects and those suspected of offences punishable by at least seven years in jail.

There has been a huge increase in the number of DNA samples taken by Police since 2003: from 1 July 2004 to 7 October 2004 3723 were taken or 59 percent more than the same time last year.

DNA hits for the same period were 615, 49 percent more than the same time last year.

The Police’s budget of around $16M for the current financial year for ESR is one of the largest in the Police operating budget.

That amount has doubled in 4 years: in 2000 the total cost of ESR services was $8.2 million.

The increase is due in part to the increase in clan labs, increased submissions for the DNA profile databank, and increased use of ESR for volume crime.

DNA and forensic science are key ingredients of effective investigations but they must be effectively managed.

The police and ESR approach to using DNA and forensic evidence is “results-oriented” – work is prioritised around court dates and the weight of evidence required for a successful trial.

This means that ESR are not working on case samples in the order they receive them or “just because they are there”, but because testing serves a clear evidential purpose.

To ensure that work is constantly prioritised, ESR works closely with the Officer in Charge of an investigation.

In addition, from 1 November 2004 a dedicated police staff member will manage the Police-ESR interface.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that on average, 30 percent of crime samples sent in by police yield a DNA profile.

Of these, around half produce a match.

Palm printing is another tool that is proving its value.

Since 1991 police have been taking hand as well as fingerprints, with around 25 percent of prints at crime scenes being palm prints.

Since April 2004, police have had the technology to use Palm prints as a crime resolution tool.

In the five months since then, police have matched 556 Palm prints from crime scenes.

The retrospective matches include 6 outstanding rapes and 29 aggravated robberies, with a significant number of the other matches relating to unlawful takings and burglaries.

As well, Police have back-captured palm prints held on file and have succeeded in capturing 300,000 to date.

Help has also been available in successive Budgets, including this year with an additional $39 million over four years targeting the methamphetamine trade and organised crime.

Such support has the aim of allowing you to do your job better to ensure the community is a safer place.

To summarise, we have taken the approach that after the savaging the police budgets took in the 1990s, balance had to be restored. And we've done that.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you.

I have pleasure in opening the Police Association's 69th Annual Conference.

I wish your Conference every success and once again thank you for a job well done.



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