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King: speech to Police Association

Full text of Annette King speech to Police Association this morning

The first thing I want to say today is that the three years I have been Police Minister have been among the most satisfying years I have spent in politics.

I have been proud to be your minister over that time. It is not always easy for you or me, but I appreciate and highly value the work done by the men and women who make up New Zealand Police. I have been protective of your reputation, particularly against those who use our police officers to make political capital.

I am really pleased, therefore, to talk to you today about what we have achieved by working together in the past three years, and to look forward to what will happen over the next three.

So thank you to president Greg O'Connor and your association for inviting me to your 73rd conference. The theme of your conference --- Police as Community --- is particularly apt as far as I am concerned.

One constant to everything I have observed about policing is that to achieve enhanced community safety, the community certainly depends upon an effective, well-equipped and highly-motivated police organisation, but equally the police depend upon a motivated, caring and helpful community.

If ever a human relationship could be called symbiotic, then it is certainly the relation between police and the community.

I was reminded of this when I spoke at a public meeting in Nelson last week. During question time, a lovely man in his 80s stood up and said he could remember that when he was a child in Murchison, there always seemed to be a policeman on the footpath, and yet he never saw one these days.

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Putting aside the likelihood that in the 1930s you would be more likely to see Murchison's sole policeman of that time on the footpath than behind the wheel of a car, the elderly man was making a point I often hear when travelling around the country.

Quite simply, people feel reassured when they see police moving about in their community. They register the police presence, even if only subconsciously, and they feel safer. A senior police officer in Nelson told me he always walks to the shops if he needs something, because he realises people like seeing a uniform on the street.

That's good. I think we can all accept that the more police are evident in the community, the more comfortable the community will feel. Unfortunately, however, too often policing in the community is reduced to over-simplified solutions.

Policing in the community needs to take place across a whole range of interactions --- through police in schools, through police working with Maori and Pacific wardens and alongside Community Patrols and Neighbourhood Support, through volunteer staffing of CCTV cameras, through working with local councils in enforcing alcohol bans, through intelligence-gathering, and through working with organisations dedicated to reducing family and sexual violence and child abuse.

The real question is --- what is community policing? As far as I am concerned, it's our general duties staff, our CIB staff, it's our road police and our community police, our organised crime investigators, our Maori, Pacific and other ethnic liaison staff, and our youth aid staff.

National's policy for New Zealand is for 600 extra police for New Zealand by the end of 2011. They include the extra 380 who will be recruited and trained by the end of June next year under the Labour-led Government's current policy. Basically that means that over the next three years National would train an extra 75 police a year, or about six extra per police district each year. That puts their policy in perspective.

Compared to 75 extra a year, Labour has added about 2500 extra police across all forms of policing in nine years. That has been a real commitment. And we will continue to work with the Police Commissioner to determine future policing requirements. The ratio of police to population has gone from 1:527 under National to 1:503, the ratio it will reach when the last recruits graduate from the Royal New Zealand Police College next June as a result of our confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First.

National's policy, of an extra 220 frontline staff over three years, for South Auckland is all the more astonishing because of the money it put alongside the proposal --- or, to be more accurate, the money it didn't put alongside the proposal. National said it would spend $55.5m on the policy, yet we know, on 2006 figures and without the latest pay increase for police, the proposal would cost at least $100 million, and probably a lot more than that.

Many of you will remember the impact of the policy in the 1990s when the complete cost of extra police, including uniforms, equipment, accommodation and transport, was not funded properly. It led to a reduction for all other police operations.

Apart from playing fast and loose with the amount of funding needed for an extra 220 police, however, the National Party is playing three rorts on the public of South Auckland in particular, and potentially the rest of New Zealand as well, with their promise of 300 extra police in South Auckland by 2010.

The first rort is that National would have people believe that the 300 officers can operate self-sufficiently without the need for extra non-sworn support staff. The truth is they cannot do so, if they are to be genuinely "out on the street".

The second rort is that National would have people believe that you can just move 300 extra police into any area without back-up facilities and infrastructure. In the past five years the Government has spent more than $30 million on police buildings in South Auckland alone to provide decent accommodation and to take account of the extra officers already provided in the district.

National has no plans to accommodate the extra 300, and that's all the more hypocritical given the fact that some National MPs have actually been campaigning for police stations to be open 24 hours a day. Well, perhaps they can explain how you can have a station open 24 hours a day when you don't have a station for staff in the first place.
The third rort is on the rest of New Zealand. It will be impossible to put that many extra police into South Auckland without raiding the stocks of new recruits already allocated to other police districts. National has already said, in fact, that it will provide the extra 300 for South Auckland by "refocusing" within existing police resources. We know what that's a euphemism for.

And over above all those cruel hoaxes, there is also clearly the issue that National is prepared to interfere politically with the independence of the Police Commissioner and New Zealand Police generally. The Police Commissioner and his district commanders know where they believe extra staff should be deployed, but National is saying that it knows better and that it will direct the Commissioner to change his allocation.

I believe that is a disturbing development in New Zealand policing --- and one that runs contrary not only to traditions that go back almost two centuries, but to the new Policing Act 2008 as well. The new Act makes it clear operational matters are the responsibility of the Commissioner. The Act was passed with support of all parties except the Maori Party, but the agreement on police independence has only lasted as long as an election campaign.

I now want to talk about some of the serious issues Labour will continue to address over the next three years.

The first of these is organised crime in general, and gang activity where it is associated with organised crime. I am well aware how concerned the association is about the extent of criminal gang activity, and about the use of methamphetamine in our society.

The police are doing a magnificent job combating P --- the number of recorded methamphetamine offences are down 18 percent from a peak two years ago --- but this drug is easy to manufacture, easy to obtain, and cruelly exploits those who become addicted to it. I notice in the latest National Party election campaign that they include clan lab busts by the Police as a negative against the Government. I believe the busts are a positive, and a "good job" done.

We cannot afford to let up on our efforts to crack down on it, and to crack down on the organised criminal groups who make their money from it.
Labour will continue to crack down on organized criminal activity.

I know your association will be enthusiastic when I tell you that Labour will establish a Commission of Inquiry into Organised Criminal Gangs as a means of establishing the extent of gang involvement in organised crime and ways to stamp these out. The Commission will not only draw on the experiences of police here, but will also hear from overseas jurisdictions facing similar issues and problems.

Recently, there has also been a whole range of local solutions put forward to dealing with criminal gang activities --- ranging from the Wanganui District Council bill to a range of political party policies. It is time to take an overall view of this serious issue. We need to ensure that any future measures we put in place continue to be effective.

Labour will expect the Commission to study not only the involvement of gangs in organised crime, but to also study recruitment and other anti-social behaviour, and will also task the Commission with determining appropriate measures to curb and control gangs.
These are tough asks --- but I am confident that New Zealand has the strength and capacity to take on those whose sole ambition is to make profits out of peddling misery and fear in our society.

As part of the Commission's brief, Labour is also committed to following the progress of South Australian gang legislation to determine if it is applicable in a New Zealand context. Under their new law a gang is outlawed by being declared a criminal organisation on advice from the police. Control orders can then be made against individual members, making it illegal for them to associate or communicate with other members and from being in certain places.

Police can also issue public safety orders banning gangs from public places or events, and breaches of the law are punishable by up to five years in jail.

As I said, countries the world over share common problems associated with organised criminality. New Zealand doesn't have the mortgage on solutions, and if we can learn from other jurisdictions, we will do so.

I am confident that the commission's findings across its brief will reinforce other initiatives Labour has taken to combat serious and organised crime.

As I said, legislative initiatives will make life tougher for these criminals, and Labour will press ahead on a number of fronts.

Labour will continue with establishing an Organised Crime and Financial Agency within Police by passing the Serious Fraud Office Abolition and Transition Provisions Bill. This Bill disestablishes the current small and stand-alone Serious Fraud Office and transfers those important functions, powers and commercial fraud investigative capabilities into the larger Police infrastructure.

Amalgamating SFO and Police skills and experience will bring a new capability to tackle corporate fraud and sophisticated organised crime groups. OFCANZ offers a new mechanism to increase the attention given to serious and complex fraud, while significantly challenging those engaged in both domestic and international organised crime.

Labour will also pass the Organised Crime, Penalties and Sentencing Bill, which significantly increases the maximum penalty for participation in an organised criminal group and make such participation an aggravating factor at sentencing.

Increasing the maximum penalty from 5 to 10 years imprisonment sends a strong message that gang and other organised criminal activity will not be tolerated and ensures that crime bosses receive the level of penalty that their actions deserve.

Thirdly, Labour will also pass the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Bill. The reality is that too many criminals are able to retain property and income acquired through criminal offending by distancing themselves from those committing the crimes. This weakness in the existing criminal forfeiture regime enables gangs and career criminals to amass more money to fund more crime.

This legislation will remedy this by introducing a new civil forfeiture regime under which assets and profit gained from crime can be confiscated without a conviction. It will be sufficient to prove on the balance of probabilities that a person has benefited from significant criminal activity.
Fourthly, Labour will pass the Search and Surveillance Powers Bill to provide a coherent, consistent approach to law enforcement powers of entry, search and seizure. The law has failed to keep pace with technology. Existing legislation sanctioning law enforcement use of interception and tracking devices is cumbersome and outdated. It is silent with respect to the use of visual surveillance devices.

As part of its fight against serious and organised crime, Labour has introduced a comprehensive package of reforms relating to search and surveillance powers. The Law Commission took five years to produce recommendations forming the core of this Bill, and Labour has supplemented this work by adding a compulsory examination power to assist the investigation of serious and organised crime.

Carrying knives has become fashionable amongst some young people today, and the use of knives has slightly increased over recent years. It is important that this practice is stamped out before it becomes common practice.

The Search and Surveillance Powers Bill, introduced in September, will also be useful in this context. Under the legislation, police will be able to seize evidence of an offence that comes into view in the course of the lawful exercise of a search power, even though seizure of the item is not authorized by the search power.

I have already mentioned youth gangs, an area where I believe we have made valuable progress using our own home-grown resources and initiatives in Counties-Manukau. Labour will extend the Counties Manukau initiatives to respond to youth gangs in other centres.

Counties Manukau has put in place, with government funding, a youth gang initiative involving youth workers, an integrated case management model and reception centres. The initiative involves police, justice, education, MSD, CYF, and local government.

The results have been positive. Since 2006, police in Counties Manukau report that there is less criminal activity occurring and fewer serious offences being committed by members of youth gangs. Recently Counties Manukau experienced a 4.9 percent drop in total reported crime, which was the second largest reduction in the country.

The Counties-Manukau initiative also clearly proves actions do not work in isolation. We need integrated community plans using local people to achieve lasting success, and that's why Labour will address the need for more mental health, education, drug and alcohol dependency community based programmes for young offenders.

Government agencies need to continue helping non-government or community organisations in delivering effective rehabilitation and reintegration plans for young offenders and their families. Labour will ensure that programmes are designed specifically for Pacific Island and Maori young offenders aimed at strengthening their cultural identity, heritage and values in order for them to be successfully reintegrated back into the community.

A bottom line is encouraging government agencies and community groups to continue work in partnership to respond effectively to young offenders' psychological problems, alcohol and drug issues, educational failure and lack of employment skills.

As an extension of that, Labour is asking for more work to be done on the United Kingdom model of fixed penalty notices where offences are sufficiently minor not to warrant a full prosecution process. Any such system of fixed penalty notices would build on the current infringement notice system, and needs to be nationally consistent if it is to work properly.

As I said, actions cannot work in isolation. That's why Labour will over time establish Drug and Alcohol Teams at a local level to coordinate a range of services to provide tailored solutions for those who commit crime to fund their drug use.
This will draw on the Drug and Alcohol Team initiative in the United Kingdom. Drug and Alcohol Teams will refer individuals to alcohol and other drug treatment at their first point of contact with the criminal justice system, if that treatment is required. Police will be able to test first time offenders and refer them for appropriate treatment, instead of such treatment being largely restricted, as it is now, to prisoners or those on parole.
The availability and misuse of alcohol clearly remains a significant problem for communities around New Zealand and for policing.
Labour will pass the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, which is aimed at making it more difficult for young persons to obtain alcohol. The Bill will, among other things:

• Make it an offence for an adult, other than the minor's parent or guardian, to supply alcohol to a minor.
• Amend the Land Transport Act to introduce a zero blood alcohol limit for drivers under 20 who do not hold a full licence.
• Ensure minors are referred to an alcohol programme in place of paying an infringement fine.
• Make it an offence to use fake ID.

Labour also believes it is important to improve community input into the licensing process. Local Alcohol Plans will be prepared through consultation under the Local Government Act 2002, and will be designed to control the hours during which liquor may be sold, maximum outlet density, and minimum proximity to other outlets and types of community premises.

As well, the Law Commission is undertaking a comprehensive, first principles review of the Sale of Liquor Act, which is now 20 years old and which has had about as many amendments to it as the old Police Act.

Before I finish today, I also want to talk about family violence and sexual violence.

Family violence is still minimised by many who fail to recognise its impact across all areas of our violence statistics. In the past nine years, since Labour began campaigning to raise awareness of family violence, there has been a sharp increase in the number of offences reported. In fact, in the past year's crime stats, according to NZ Police, family violence accounted for all the increase in violent offences.

Police action has had a major role in terms of the reporting of family violence, with all frontline police now having training in the area. The successful It's not Okay campaign is also starting to impact on the figures. This is good news.

Labour will pass the Domestic Violence Reform Bill, introduced in September. The Bill is designed to enable Police to issue interim protection orders; improve the response of the Criminal Court and the Family Court to victims of family violence; and to provide better protection for children in Family Court matters. The Bill arose out of a major public consultation process and has wide support. Women's Refuge originally opposed interim protection orders, but now believes they are a valuable tool in the fight against family violence.

Labour will also introduce legislation to give effect to the recommendations of the Task Force for Action on Sexual Violence that was set up in July last year. Addressing sexual violence requires a multi-faceted approach covering prevention, improved support for victims, and increased accountability for offenders both within and alongside the criminal justice system.

An example of improved support for victims can be seen in the interviewing suite in Invercargill that I opened last week. The suite is specially designed to take account of the needs of victims, and is leap years ahead of the days when a victim was taken to any place available in the police station.

Community feedback has now been received into the taskforce document --- Improvements to Sexual Violence Legislation in New Zealand --- which sought views on possible law changes to the area of consent, the defence of reasonable belief in consent (Crimes Act) and the admissibility of evidence relating to the sexual history of the complainant, also known as the Rape Shield. Changes will be made to legislation after this feedback is considered.

Thank you again for inviting me to speak with you today, and for the immense contributions your association makes to policing in New Zealand. That contribution was particularly notable in terms of the new Policing Act, which is a great tribute to the work of NZ Police, your association and of Parliament.

Labour is committed to a modern, effective, fair and accessible justice system which makes offenders accountable, reduces offending, supports the victims of crime, and in turn, strengthens our communities.

We want a country where the justice system is fair to both the accused and the victim, where justice is achieved, and importantly, seen to be achieved by the public.
Labour is also committed to fighting crime on all levels. Every New Zealander is entitled to feel safe in their homes and in their community.

To return to your theme, however --- Police as Community ---governments cannot solve all the issues I have discussed in isolation.

Like New Zealand Police, and like your association, Labour believes in working with local authorities, with community organisations and with individuals to make our neighbourhoods as safe as we possibly can. We all need to take responsibility in the battle against crime.

Thank you.


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