24 Feb 2021

Collins on Bridges' wokester jibe: 'I wouldn't call someone that'

9:27 am on 24 February 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins says justice spokesperson Simon Bridges should direct criticism to ministers not the police commissioner, who he labelled a "wokester".

Judith Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The party's justice spokesperson, Simon Bridges, called Police Commissioner Andrew Coster "our wokester commissioner" in response to a police operation targeting guns held by organised crime groups and gangs.

On Tuesday he doubled down on his criticism saying there had been multiple occasions where the commissioner had put being nice and "policing by consent" ahead of catching criminals.

Collins said it was not the party's position and Bridges was "just reflecting the frustration that we're hearing from frontline police".

"I've always made it very clear we don't attack the commissioners, it's the ministers who set the agenda.

"I have spoken to Simon and I've made it clear that the focus needs to be on the government and the ministers and the fact that the ministers have promised extra police and yet the police have stopped recruiting."

Collins said wokester was not a term she would ever use or think of: "I wouldn't call someone that."

It was "absolutely not" the position of the National Party, and Bridges was not the party's police spokesperson, she said.

"We are focused on the growing number of gang members, the almost doubling of numbers in Wellington this last three years under this government and their lack of action, their lack of backing of the frontline police."

"Frontline police are saying gang numbers have almost doubled in the last four years and police numbers are static and that's simply not acceptable. We've got now almost 8000 patched gang members."

"[Police are] feeling gutted by their lack of support from the government, in particular some of these decisions like the stopping of Armed Response Teams.

National Party justice spokesperson Simon Bridges, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

National Party justice spokesperson Simon Bridges and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone, Dom Thomas

"We also have things like police pursuits being stopped whereby carloads of criminals can continue ... as long as they speed. This is totally unacceptable and yet it is being allowed at the moment."

Collins said National would bring back Armed Response Teams.

"I represent the South Auckland seat of Papakura, people there were actually very supportive and the people who didn't like them were the gangs."

"Wellingtonians should be very concerned that the gangs are going after people with money and they're bringing in drugs."

In June last year, then-National Party police spokesperson Brett Hudson said the commissioner made the right choice in ending the Armed Response Teams saying firearms were already available to police when needed for public safety. Collins said she didn't think there was general agreement on that, and it was important to listen to police.

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