Symposium on Policing: Securing the future

  • Annette King

It is my pleasure to welcome you all firstly to Parliament’s Grand Hall, but most importantly to the NZ Police/Victoria University of Wellington School of Government Symposium on Policing.

The theme of this symposium --- Securing the future: Networked Policing in New Zealand --- is one I have taken a close interest in during the year I have been Police Minister.

And one reason for that, apart from wanting to help create an appropriate legislative environment for policing in the 21st century, is the infectious enthusiasm of tonight’s MC, Superintendent Hamish McCardle, and Mike Webb, Anna McKenzie and all the other NZ Police staff involved in the 1958 Police Act review team.

Everyone taking part in the review --- and I count myself among them --- is delighted to be in at the ground floor of work that we all hope will endure for many decades to come.

There are a number of other people I want to welcome here specially tonight, including Police Commissioner Howard Broad, of course, and His Excellency George Fergusson, the British High Commissioner who has kindly agreed to chair tomorrow’s symposium session featuring three of his highly-respected compatriots in the areas of policing and criminology.

I also want to warmly welcome senior members of Victoria University of Wellington, co-hosts of this symposium along with the Police Act review team; and welcome also to a number of my Parliamentary colleagues, members of political party research units, and representatives from police service organisations, including Police Association president Greg O’Connor.
The future agenda for policing is too important for politics to divide us, and I welcome the constructive approach which has been taken by everyone participating in the Police Act Review.

I also want to welcome our special guests from overseas, and thank you also to our own New Zealand speakers and chairs who are contributing to the Symposium. I am sure you will all have much of value to add to a debate which will assume increasing importance as the new Police Act takes shape.

And as for the current Act, I don't like to think of something conceived in the late 1950s as being past its use by date already, but I think everyone here can see the need to bring Police legislation up to date for the 21st century.

Modernisation of the legislative framework is not about throwing out all old thinking simply due to its age, of course, because the principles underpinning policing are as relevant today as they have been since they were developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 1820s.

However, the 1958 Police Act was written when society and police were vastly different from today. Police technology mostly consisted of a set of handcuffs, a baton and a torch. Instead of a radio, officers carried a whistle. A car was as much a luxury for a police officer as it was for a member of the public. Police walked the beat to maintain law and order on the block, and were pretty much the only enforcement agency on that block.

Those early legislators could not have envisaged the changes to the society police now work in. The review of the Police Act is an opportunity to develop legislation that builds on the best of the past while adapting for the present, and preparing New Zealand Police for the future. This Symposium is set to play a crucial role in that review.

Like the legislators of the 1950s, of course, we cannot hope to second guess the future, but we have to do the best we can, and if we can produce legislation that lasts for some 50 years, as they did, then we will not have done too badly at all.

This forum brings together experts who have been thinking about the kinds of issues that need to be carefully considered in advance of the new Act. What will future society look like? No one has a foolproof crystal ball, but I know Professor Jim Dator, of Hawaii’s Research Centre for Futures Studies, has been thinking about what will happen for longer than probably anyone else here this evening.

Singapore is a country that sits at the hub both geographically and in terms of international policing. Singapore Police have had to grapple with many issues yet to face New Zealand, and that’s one reason Senior Assistant Commissioner Ang Hak Seng is so well positioned to share important views on the future of policing.

And Professor Clifford Shearing, of Cape Town University’s Institute of Criminology, has been involved with a number of policing changes, including those in Northern Ireland and Canada, with more recent experience garnered in the new South Africa, of course.

Our existing policing model reflects both New Zealand's own development and a mix of policing practice that is partly based on the British colonial policing model and more latterly on other international policing developments from regions such as North America, Europe, and Australia.

It is therefore entirely appropriate that our international guests include Jane Stichbury, of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Paul Evans, from the Home Office Police and Crime Standards Directorate, Professor Philip Stenning, of the Centre for Criminological Research, Keele University, and Professor Peter Grabosky from the Australian National University.

Their viewpoints and experience will be invaluable, and I am sure that they will all contribute toward what what we create here as the new model for policing the New Zealand way, a model that draws on the best we can learn from other jurisdictions as well as the best we have learned from out own experience.

The process we are going through, including this symposium, will enable us to identify our unique strengths and opportunities to best serve New Zealand’s policing needs.

As you all know, NZ Police are no longer the only law enforcement agency on the block. The security industry, local government and volunteer groups all play a major role in policing today.

I'm sure that Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon, Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Simon Murdoch, Maori Wardens Association national president Peter Walden, Security Association chair Scott Carter and Paragon Risk Ltd managing director Ron McQuilter can highlight issues raised by this overlap, and help point the way to using all our resources as well as we can to provide the best possible service to New Zealanders.

When I announced this review in March I said the legislative process would allow local and overseas input. This symposium is at the heart of what is, and will be, an extensive consultation process.

If I needed reassurance that we are going about the process in the right way, I certainly received it when I visited the UK in May, and was told by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair in London how important he believes it is to start a dialogue with the public on rewriting our Act, and about the shape and nature of policing.

Sir Ian says there is a crucial link between legislation, policy and operational leadership, and urges a comprehensive, big picture approach. The good news is that’s exactly what we are setting out to do here, and we may actually be ahead of any such public engagement in the UK about the future of policing.

I also met Sir Ronnie Flannigan, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, who emphasised New Zealand’s major advantage in having one national police force compared to the 43 forces in England and Wales. Sir Ronnie’s best advice to New Zealand, in terms of the review, is to be measured, “taking the organisation with you”. That is also certainly what we are setting out to achieve.

This forum presents an opportunity to be challenged, and to explore concepts and ideas that will help inform our thinking around a new Act. I hope everyone at the symposium uses this rare opportunity to share international and local experiences.

As Minister of Police, I will do all I can to champion the legislative process to produce the best possible outcome for NZ Police as they face the policing demands of the future, and strive to help create a New Zealand that is safe for all our people and all our communities.

This symposium is an important step along the way of helping us all understand more about how criminal and anti-social behaviour can be tackled more effectively, how public confidence and assurance can be increased, and how better partnerships can achieve better outcomes.

If the Symposium can achieve all that in even only small degrees, it will count as a major success as far as I am concerned. Thank you all very much for supporting this most important initiative.