6 Dec 2023

Police Minister Mark Mitchell sets out expectations of commissioner

8:31 pm on 6 December 2023
Mark Mitchell

Police Minister Mark Mitchell met with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster on Wednesday, and agreed to the terms. Photo: RNZ / Sam Rillstone

The new police minister, Mark Mitchell, has set his expectations of the police commissioner, laying out the government's direction and priorities in a letter.

Mitchell has repeatedly refused to declare his confidence in Andrew Coster, whose term ends in 2025.

"Our New Zealand Police organisation and frontline staff are working in a far more complex, demanding and dangerous environment that requires focused, strong and supportive leadership. My expectation is for that leadership to be evident," Mitchell said in a statement.

The letter was released by the public service commissioner, who helped draft it. Mitchell and Coster met on Wednesday, and agreed to the terms.

"I have been open about the fact I do not agree with the direction policing has taken under the previous government and I expect the police commissioner to focus on core policing with a back-to-basics approach," Mitchell said.

The government intends to introduce legislation in its first 100 days to ban gang patches, stop gang members gathering in public, stop known gang members from communicating with each other, and give police greater search powers.

"I expect police to be using the full force of the law and the tools and resources it has available, to significantly disrupt gang and organised crime within communities across New Zealand. I expect to see an immediate and sustained focus to deliver results in this area by police," the letter stated.

Mitchell has also told Coster to work with Oranga Tamariki and other agencies to ensure youth offenders had pathways and targeted support to avoid a life of crime, to retain and develop staff despite Australia actively working to recruit officers, and to identify where police resources could be focused back onto core policing (for example, by relieving police of responsibilities that other agencies could better deliver, such as mental health).

While other parts of the public sector have been told to find savings in order to fund the government's tax package, police has been exempt.

Instead, Mitchell said, back-office savings would be reinvested into the frontline.

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