Police add almost 1300 officers to ranks, but fall short of 1800 target

11:20 am on 13 August 2020

The government has failed to meet its target of increasing the total number of police by 1800 officers in three years.

RNZ doing a story with police on forensics.

In 2018 and 2019, 1694 people graduated police college, a rate of more than double the previous three years. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Official figures show there are 1280 more officers than this time three years ago, but the National Party says that is well off what is required to fight rising crime.

The promise from the Labour - NZ First coalition was to strive for 1800 new police.

The question was, what did that mean?

For two years, minister of police Stuart Nash said it meant extra officers over and above attrition.

At the Police Association's national conference in October last year, he said this: "Now that's 1800 more police over and above the current rate, not 1800 more graduates, 1800 more police".

Nash declined an interview for this story, but soon after that comment he told RNZ the government has two goals - 1800 new recruits, which it has met, and a net increase of 1800, which might take longer than three years.

Minister of police Stuart Nash.

Minister of police Stuart Nash. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National's police spokesperson Brett Hudson said the government was not doing enough to battle rising gang crime and other criminal elements in society.

"Victimisations were up over 17,000 [this year], despite the fact there are so many more police there," Hudson said.

"Gang numbers have grown to over 7000, that's a 34 percent increase over the term of this government alone.

"They made a promise, they made a commitment to New Zealanders, and they've failed to deliver that promise."

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National's police spokesperson Brett Hudson. Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

National had promised 880 extra police over four years during the last election.

The government have delivered 400 officers more than that, and a year ahead of schedule.

That is due to what has been a sharp increase in people going through police college compared to the previous government.

During National's last term in office, 1139 officers graduated and moved into the police service.

In 2018 and 2019, 1694 people graduated, a rate of more than double the previous three years.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said they were great numbers.

"We always said right back at the start that 1800 in three years was a very big ask and a good target to set, so to actually get to 1280 is very pleasing, and it's made a real difference.

"On the front line and in key investigation groups, without a doubt staff are noticing the backup they're now getting."

It was vital that the 1800 figure was eventually met, Cahill said.

Meanwhile, NZ First leader Winston Peters has committed to another 1000 police as part of his election campaign, but that did not take attrition into account.

Hudson said that was not much of a promise.

"For someone like me that's been around for a few years, that's a Clayton's promise.

"It's a promise you make when you're not making a promise, because police will have to have at least that number of recruits over that period simply to counter for the attrition that they will experience."

Police say they were on track to hit the 1800 figure by 2023.

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