30 Jan 2019

Police injuries fall but figures questioned

4:36 pm on 30 January 2019

Some police officers are not reporting when they have been injured by an offender while on the job.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

It is an issue police are aware of, and something the Police Association wants to be reviewed.

Data released under the Official Information Act shows that 470 injuries were reported by police officers who had been assaulted in 2018, more 57 fewer than 2016 and three more than 2017 (467).

In some cases, the officer suffered multiple injuries from a single assault.

The most common injury was a bruise or graze, accounting for 218 of the injuries, but other injuries included 20 fractures or dislocations, 22 concussions or other internal injuries, and 12 puncture wounds.

New Zealand Police Association president Chris Cahill questioned those numbers, suggesting they seemed low.

"I think it would be good for police to consider how they're doing it and see if their own staff and supervisors accept that these figures are correct.

"I doubt they would. In which case, it would seem a review of the reporting and the data collection may be required to ensure they're more accurate."

Mr Cahill said the notion that little more than one officer per day might suffer an injury was fanciful.

He said overworked officers could explain some of the poor reporting.

"To some degree, police officers can become a bit blasé.

"There is a lot of administration and paperwork involved in policing normally. Especially at the end of a busy shift, if you've already worked two or three hours overtime and you've had a bit of a scratch or a scrape or someone has spat at you, you might be less likely to actually document that.

"[It's] a shame because it doesn't highlight how serious the problem can be."

Mr Cahill said things like spitting and bodily fluid exposure were severely under reported.

Police deputy chief executive of people and capability Kaye Ryan said 15 percent of all reported assaults on police ended with an officer injured.

In a statement, Ms Ryan admitted that some officers were not reporting when they had been injured.

"Staff safety is our priority and, therefore, our focus is to actively encourage reporting of accidents and near misses across the organisation.

"We acknowledge there will always be incidents that go unreported, so our focus is to continue to grow a culture within police that promotes and encourages active reporting."

She said police were reviewing the methods of reporting, such as using mobile devices to record incidents.

Despite issues with the reporting of injuries, the number of injuries police are sustaining appears to be dropping since officers were routinely armed with tasers.

Ms Ryan said the tasers and pepper spray had been valuable additions for officers and helped defuse some dangerous situations.