14 Jun 2018

Police Minister defends extra police target

4:42 pm on 14 June 2018

The Police Minister has been challenged on his continued insistence that having more police on the streets will create no extra pressure on New Zealand's prisons, already bursting at the seams.

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Police Minister Stuart Nash Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Under its coalition deal with New Zealand First, Labour pledged to boost the number of sworn officers by 1800 over three years.

Justice and Corrections has advised Stuart Nash that an extra 900 beds would be needed as a result of the new policy.

Mr Nash told MPs at a parliamentary committee however, that he preferred to take police advice, which has said the roll out of new officers would not result in more prisoners.

More police would mean more prevention, less crime and fewer people in prison, he said.

At a parliamentary committee National's police spokesperson Chris Bishop questioned that - partly because 700 out of the 1800 new officers will be focused on organised crime.

He put it to the minister that would mean targeting cyber crime and drug dealers - "that's not prevention, that's going after them, locking them up and sending them to jail".

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National's police spokesperson Chris Bishop Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Mr Nash said if you take out the criminal leaders and the gangs, that lead to a reduction in other crimes like violent and sexual assaults, and family harm.

But he's not quite in step with other Cabinet colleagues.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has allowed for more prisoners as a result of boosted police numbers, referring to it at yesterday's announcement about Waikeria Prison.

"In 2021 the prison population is projected to have increased by a further 1700 - to be clear, these projections take into account the possible impact of increased police numbers."

But Mr Nash was adamant there would be no increased pressure on prisons.

"If I actually thought that 1800 more police would lead to more people in prison, then I'd be going to Mr Davis and Mr Little [the Justice Minister] and say 'hey you guys need to gear up because there's a wave coming your way'."

'Cap in hand'

Money to pay for extra police was also discussed at the hearing.

Mr Nash said he had gone for the full $515 million needed to pay for the policy, but ended up with $298m in the May Budget.

He would have to go back to get the money to train the new officers next year, then seek the remainder of the funding the following year.

Having to go 'cap in hand' was just part of the Budget process, he said.

Mr Bishop also asked the minister why a specific target for police to respond to most, if not all, home burglaries had been dropped.

Mr Nash said he had two targets for police - the first that police had 90 percent public trust and confidence levels, and that officers were well enough equipped to do their job.

But he said police themselves had a large range of operational targets.