4 Aug 2021

Covid-19 delays police body armour replacement

11:02 am on 4 August 2021

The police's $25.3m body armour replacement programme has been hit by major delays because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

New police armour.

Photo: RNZ / Eva Corlett

The entire police force was supposed to be decked out in new kevlar body armour by the end of June, but that deadline's now been delayed by up to a year.

It's hoped most officers will have their new armour by the end of October after the police put up extra cash to secure stock.

But some won't have the armour until the end of June next year.

In a briefing sent to Police Minister Poto Williams, the police sought permission to spend an undisclosed sum to secure stock after their supplier, Northern Irish company Cooneen, said its supply had been disrupted by Covid-19.

In a statement, a police spokesperson said: "The components that make up [the Body Armour System (BAS)] are manufactured in six different countries and are synchronised to arrive in New Zealand at the same time to make up the individual systems that are delivered to each officer.

"Cooneen book production time in each factory and adhere to strict schedules. However Covid-related lockdowns in various locations have impacted factories involved in the manufacture of BAS from time to time, disrupting manufacturing and supply schedules.

"In addition, the factories rely on raw materials from their own suppliers, who have also been affected by lockdowns.

"Finally, Covid-19 has had a significant impact on global freight routes in terms of demand, space, cost and time."

Only by spending more are the police able to ensure the armour arrives within the next 12 months.

But the police said frontline officers are already well covered, and good stocks will arrive quickly.

"Despite manufacturing and transportation delays caused by Covid-19, NZ Police's implementation of the new Body Armour System (BAS) is nearing completion, with BAS delivered to 85 percent of relevant staff across New Zealand already.

"By 31 October 2021 we expect to have delivered BAS to 95 percent of relevant staff across New Zealand.

"The remaining 5 percent of relevant staff are those who are/were not available for various reasons during their district BAS rollout."

If the police are providing armour to each member of the constabulary, about 1000 officers will be getting armour over the next four months, and a further 500 before July next year.

The police, and the Police Minister, will not reveal the cost of the delays.

Originally, the body armour replacement programme was set to cost $20.7m and take four years, finishing on June 2022.

But after the Christchurch mosque attacks, the programme was accelerated by then Police Minister Stuart Nash, at a cost of $4.6m.

The government had been transparent about the costs of the programme at the time, but have redacted the costs of this delay.

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