Does she stand by the Prime Minister’s statement prior to the last election that “It is not credible, however, to promise thousands more new police when the capacity of the police college and the labour market conditions in a strong economy mean that such numbers could not be recruited and trained without seriously compromising standards and quality.”?
Yes, because that quote was in response to a proposal to double police numbers in 5 years, which would mean training 1,691 sworn staff every year. The considered and realistic approach taken by the confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First to recruit an additional 1,000 sworn officers over 3 years is on target, and it is being done without compromising standards, as shown by the Cerno report on police standards and assessment practice released in October last year.
Can she confirm calculations from the Police Association that show that although there is one sworn officer for every 510 people nationwide, the ratio in the Counties-Manukau Police District is 1:646, making it the second worst in the country; and is that ratio acceptable when violence in the Counties-Manukau Police District has increased by 64 percent since Labour took office?
I can confirm to the member that, in the allocation of the additional staff, the first priority was the Counties-Manukau Police District, and we continue to put officers into that area. But, as the member knows, the districts in the Auckland area support each other district, so although there are a certain number of police in the Counties-Manukau Police District, that district has the resource of the whole Auckland area to call on to help it, as has happened to deal with some of the tragedies in that area lately.
Is the Minister satisfied with staffing in the Counties-Manukau Police District, when an internal email last month from the regional Police Association representative, Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Pizzini, reveals that there are “senior investigators in this district who are nearly falling over”, and that “workplace stress in this district is not peculiar to the CIB.”?
The Counties-Manukau Police District has had a lot of serious issues in its area, and the officers there are under stress, which happens in any district when there are a number of homicides. But I know that the Commissioner of Police will ensure that extra staff go into the area when they are needed. Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) staff can be taken from any part of New Zealand to back up the work being done by those officers.
Is the Minister able to tell the House the increase in the total number of full-time equivalent police staff since 1999?
There has been a 28.3 percent increase in the total number of full-time equivalent police staff since 1999. I would like to compare that situation with the National policy in 1999, under the then Minister of Finance, Bill English, to cut 500 sworn staff. He was prepared to do it then, and I believe he would do it again.
Can the Minister confirm that in the first 6 months of this year, up to the day of the murder of Navtej Singh, there were 53 aggravated robberies of commercial premises in Manukau, but only five have been solved, because there are not the staffing resources to do the basics, like checking registration numbers and following up on descriptions of offenders?
No, I cannot confirm that that is the reason, but I do know that aggravated robberies, as the member knows, are not easy issues. First of all, the robbers have to be found before they can be arrested. But I can tell the member that in that same area, where there have been a number of homicides, and around the rest of New Zealand, the police record in catching murderers and ensuring they are locked away is almost close to 100 percent.
Can the Minister confirm that of the 103 CIB staff working in the Counties-Manukau Police District, 81 are not qualified and 43 started in the last 12 months, making an attrition rate from the CIB of 40 percent?
No, I cannot confirm that. I would like to know what the member’s definition of “not qualified” is, because, as the member knows, officers undertake CIB training in different districts, and work with those who are qualified. One has to go through training to become a detective, and, no doubt, it takes some time to do that—at least 2 years, I believe. The fact is that officers who are in training work alongside other officers, and that happens all around New Zealand. But if the member is saying that the CIB officers are not up to the mark, I disagree with him. I think the CIB officers in New Zealand are very good, and their record is second to none.
Does the Minister have confidence in the police, when concerns have been raised in recent times in relation to poor judgment by the police, and even cowardice when it comes to their lack of attendance at some calls involving violence? That concern has been expressed in the community. Does the Minister have confidence in the quality and the training of the police?
I have confidence in the quality and the training of the police, and I reject the suggestion that our police are cowards—they certainly are not. They face the most horrendous criminals out on the streets 24 hours a day, every day of the week, 365 days of the year. They are not cowards. There certainly are a lot of criminals out there who are cowards.
Does the Minister agree that the measure of success of the law and order policy in this country is how policing is done in South Auckland in terms of public expectation and unmet needs in relation to police response and investigations?
The success of policing will be measured right around New Zealand, because although there are problems in South Auckland, a sole officer working in the backblocks of Otago is under immense pressure, as well. Those officers need to perform their jobs just as officers in urban areas need to. The measure of success is how well our officers come up to the mark. I believe they do an extremely good job, and they have my full support.
Does the Minister accept that now she is well down the track towards implementing the National Party policy of increasing the number of police staff, there is still a long way to go to meet public expectation and need, and that she should reject Treasury advice that it is undesirable to continue adding extra police staff past the current target of 1,000?
I say to the member that if he ever gets the opportunity to be Minister of Police, he should make sure he never has a report carried out by a consultant who then tells his party’s Minister of Finance to cut police numbers by 500, because that is what happened under the National Government. The only reason the numbers were not cut is National was dumped from office and Labour became the Government.
Would it surprise the Minister to know that New Zealand First highlighted publicly the disparity between police staffing in the Counties-Manukau Police District and staffing in other areas some 6 months ago; and that although New Zealand First in its time in Parliament has negotiated to have 1,750 extra police, National has slashed police numbers, bought a computer and cut police numbers to pay for it, consistently told the public that recruiting an extra 1,000 police was simply a gimmick, and shown a solid track record of not supporting the police when it gets to Government? Who does the Minister think the public believe will look after police interests—us or them?
I think the public will go by the track record, and the track record of the National Party is appalling when it comes to supporting the New Zealand Police. I say to Chester Borrows that when he is railing against the number of police, he ought to remember what he said back in May 2007. He actually questioned the sustainability of an extra 1,000 police. If National members question the sustainability of an extra 1,000 police, I can only assume that there is no way that that number of police would be recruited if National were in Government.