30 Jan 2024

Police Commissioner reponds to Minister's goals

From Checkpoint, 5:07 pm on 30 January 2024

Bolstering the thin blue line will require a substantially fatter budget, according to the police commissioner.

The government's promising 500 new frontline police in the next two years and Police Minister Mark Mitchell is clear he wants more of them on the community beat and the return of a police hub in Auckland's CBD, after the downtown station closed in 2013.

At the same time, the government has signalled belt tightening across the board.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said while he shared the minister's goals, they were going to cost more money.

Coster told Checkpoint "the minister [Mitchell] and I absolutely agree that visible police presence in our town centres has great value".

However, further investment needed to come before an increase in beat patrols and hubs could happen, and police were already having discussions with Treasury and the police minister about the cash injection that would require.  

"We do have existing buildings, some of which are able to accommodate additional staff. The details of our discussion with ministers will need to cover the cost of the 500 [additional] staff and of course where they will be located."

Police were already dealing with a "massive increase in demand" across the board. But he and Mitchell went out on the beat last Friday and their staff were doing "an outstanding job", he said.

"With more [money], we can do more ... but it is dependent on further government investment to enable those numbers to grow."

He said the organisation had 15,500 staff and a budget of $2.3 billion, so they would be looking for a "proportional" increase on baseline funding.

Although the coalition government has promised an extra 500 frontline police officers within two years, Coster said it was getting harder to find new recruits.

"We will have to compete with other people who are looking for staff in the current environment. We have done really well to grow the organisation by 1800 staff over the last five years.

"It has got harder but I am confident that there are enough people out there who want to join the police so that we will be able to grow in a way that meets the government's ambitions."