Opening Address New Zealand Police Association 83rd Annual Conference

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou katoa.

Members of Police Executive,

President of Police Association, Chris Cahill,

Members of the Association and Australian Police Associations,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my absolute privilege and pleasure to be here opening the 2018 Police Association Conference as your Minister of Police. Thank you for the invitation.

Police Association Conferences are well known for addressing important issues and generating discussion.

As such, I hope the next few days will be stimulating and productive, but also positive and forward looking.

I am a firm supporter of the Police Association and the role it plays in advocating for Police staff.

Can I just start by saying that the last election was the first time in a long time that the main political parties weren’t in a battle to see who could lock the most Kiwis up.

But rather the debate centered around who could provide the most police into our communities. 

The previous Government started with 800 over 4 years, the Labour Party came in with 1,000 over three years, and thanks to coalition negotiations we have ended up with a promise that we will strive to deliver 1,800 over three years. 

So I absolutely acknowledge NZ First for being staunch on this and I thank them for their vision.

I will say that the reason we use the word ‘strive’ is because I am adamant that we will not drop the quality of recruits entering our police service: that would not be fair on our communities, but also not on those who we entrust our safety, and prevent crime, and to lock up the bad guys when required.

The policy and the Labour-NZ First vision came about out of the 2017 Workplace survey, where nearly 60% of respondents said that they had an undue level of workplace stress and the same number said that Police weren’t delivering on the promises made to our communities, however, over 80% said that they were committed to the NZ Police and to the communities they serve. 

So we had a whole lot of men and women who love the job and know what needs to be done to keep our communities safe, but just didn’t have the resources necessary to do the job that they knew needed to be done. 

It’s not surprising, considering that Police numbers actually dropped by 72 between 2012 and 2017. 

As Minister my focus is on building a stronger Police service that has the support you need to prevent offending, enforce the law and keep communities safe

It is important to me that Police staff are able to keep the promises they make to their communities.

That is why our first Budget set aside $300 million in new operating funding and $18 million in new capital spending for Police. I will be seeking further funding in Budget 2019.

The Government’s long term plan makes it a priority to improve the wellbeing of families and communities, with a focus on preventing crime and reducing reoffending in order to keep our communities safe.

We are committed to reducing crime, especially re-offending so there are fewer victims of crime and a smaller prison population. That’s why we are recruiting 1800 more police and investing in crime prevention and rehabilitation.

Believe me, we all want the same thing: safer communities; our Police to be well resourced, equipped, trained and supported; our officers to be as safe as they possibly can be while serving the people of New Zealand; staff to be engaged and feel they have a rewarding future with the New Zealand Police; the Police to have the trust, respect and confidence of the public.

In fact, I have made it clear that I only have 2 KPIs for the commissioner –

90% trust and confidence – which of course is one of the commissioner’s KPIs for the service; and

90% of officers say that they have the resources to meet the promises they make to our communities. 

All the other KPIs that existed from the previous Minister to the commissioner have gone. Why?

I see my role as Minister to get you the resources you need to do the job; it is then up to you to deploy those resources in a way that allows you to maximise effect and optimise effort. 

I’m not a police officer and so I am not going to tell you how to do your job.  I’m not that arrogant to think that I know best. 

There is, quite rightly, a high standard for entry into the Police. This is reflected by the calibre of recruits I have seen coming through the Police College – and I have been to every graduation except one since becoming Minister

It can be a difficult job. As police officers you will face some of the toughest conditions anyone could ever face.

The New Zealand public wants a greater uniformed presence to prevent and respond to burglaries and aggravated robberies, family harm and child protection, road policing and civil emergencies.

They want to know that you have the tools and resources you need to fight the threat from transnational organised crime groups and to reduce gang violence and drug related harm.

That is what we will deliver. – and if we don’t have the men and women of sufficient quality and integrity who are capable of delivering on these promises, then we let down our communities who count on us. 

That’s why we will not reduce the quality of recruits we are sending your way.

Organised crime, and the supply of methamphetamine and other illicit products that fund it, are responsible for so much harm in society.

A renewed focus in these areas is a priority in the Coalition Agreement and I am confident the 700 extra officers at both district and national level will make real change over the long term in this space.

The investment in extra staff also recognises the importance of equipping Police with the right tools be an effective 21st-century police services, including the latest technology and specialist roles to combat organised crime.

This includes 222 specialist Authorised Officers who will have specific constabulary powers relevant to their particular area, including in cybercrime, financial forensic investigations and asset recovery.

Additional staff from the 1800 have also been allocated capability around high tech crime with a focus on policing the dark net and combating the trade of illicit commodities.

We anticipate a strong preventative impact and reduction in harm in communities by targeting organised crime and drugs.

I believe the increased focus on high level organised crime, and the Prevention First operating model, will see overall crime reducing.

I am a firm believer in Police’s Prevention First operating model and with more police in the community it will enable more frontline staff to focus on addressing the drivers of crime and to work with communities, and the justice and social sectors to prevent crime and reduce reoffending.

One of this Government’s goals is to reduce the prison population by 30% and Police’s goal to reduce Māori reoffending contributes to this.

Police makes good use of alternative options to prosecution, such as pre-charge warnings, diversion and iwi/community panels, to help prevent further offending.

Police has advised me that with this prevention mind-set, more staff will not correlate to increased pressure on the wider Justice system.

While more Police may mean a short term increase in apprehending serious offenders through the focus on serious and organised crime and gangs – this is necessary to keep our communities safe.

I am also in full support of the implementation of more evidence-based initiatives such as Te Pae Oranga (Iwi Panels), Whāngaia, and ISR.

The theme of this year’s conference is impact of drug reform on policing in New Zealand.

The question of drug reform remains personal for many and, as I have previously said, if MPs are given a conscience vote on the issue, I will review the evidence from both sides prior to making a determination on which way I would vote.

However, what I will say is that we must treat drug use and addiction as a health issue. I’m a huge believer in collaboration and am supportive of work Police is undertaking with its partner agencies and communities for an holistic approach to the reduction of harm caused by drugs.

An example of this approach was Operation Notus, which saw Police partner with local iwi and their community partners to offer support services for users during a recent drug operation. I believe this is one of the most effective methods Police has to influence people’s choice to stop engaging in this behaviour.

Thank you again, for inviting me to open this conference.

It is always a privilege to speak to a group of women and men who are dedicated to creating a better and safer future for all New Zealanders.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your hard work and commitment in doing what New Zealanders recognise is an incredibly difficult, but important job.

As Police Minister, I am enormously proud of the work New Zealand Police does every day.

When I visit Police stations around the country I am extremely heartened by the calibre and passion of the fantastic men and women who have chosen a career less ordinary but most important.

All the best for the rest of your conference.

Ngā mihi.