16 Oct 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern puts pressure on to reach police staff targets

1:42 pm on 16 October 2019

The Prime Minister has turned Police Minister Stuart Nash's 'aspirational' target of hiring 1800 new police officers into an ironclad promise.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Clutha District is just one area crying out for additional police staff.

Mayor Bryan Cadogan said they are yet to receive any new police staff under the new recruitment scheme, though they have been promised one additional officer.

But with crime increasing in the lower South Island he said that doesn't meet the demand.

"We want to support our police and I really stress that, but how can they do their job, how can they protect us and at the same time protect themselves with such proportionately low numbers of officers on the ground?

"In the Clutha district we have seven hours every day where there is no actual police present," he said.

Speaking at the Police Association's annual conference yesterday, Police Minister Stuart Nash said under this government there have been 1685 additional graduates, meaning there are now 892 more officers once staff turnover is taken into account.

He said the government always promised it would strive for 1800 staff over three years.

"The reason we said strive is because it was aspirational and if we don't make it, then my promise to you is that we will still deliver 1800, it may take a little longer than three years, but the money is there, we will deliver that and once we have delivered that we will continue to maintain the ratios," he said.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told opposition leader Simon Bridges during question time the government would achieve that 1800 target during this term.

New Zealand First, included a provision to strive for 1800 new police officers over three years in their confidence and supply agreement.

Its leader Winston Peters said the target was about new recruits and not officers leaving.

"Of course the net or the attrition rate is not the government's responsibility, but new front line trainees, yes we have," he said

But the police minister was crystal clear on what the target included.

"Now that's 1800 more police over and above the current rate, not 1800 more graduates, 1800 more police, as well as 475 more non-sworn staff," he said.

National Party police spokesperson Brett Hudson said Mr Peters was just trying to hide the fact the government can't deliver its promise.

"The police minister has made it very clear in response to questions from my predecessor that the target number is net front line staff so it includes attrition," he said.

Mr Hudson said the attrition of senior, experienced staff was a serious situation.

He added the government won't be able to deliver its promise, but the prime minister was at least staying true to the commitment the government made.

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