Speech to the New Zealand Police Association Annual Conference

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 - 12:05

Police Association delegates, Association life members and staff, representatives from overseas jurisdictions.

Thank-you for this invitation to open your conference and to say a few words about the Government’s priorities for Police and policing in New Zealand.

It’s always good to have an opportunity to talk face to face about how things are going, and in keeping with your invitation, I’ll try and leave a bit of time at the end of my speech for questions.

I would like to start by acknowledging outgoing Association President Greg O’Connor.

Greg and I have worked together for some time now, and I thank him for the work he’s done on behalf of the Association and for his advocacy for Police during more than 20 years as your President.

I also note Greg’s previous contribution over two decades in a range of roles as a frontline police officer.

Greg, I wish you all the very best for your future and I look forward to working with your successor, whoever that might be.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate the Association for the tremendous support they provided for the commemorations marking 75 years of women in New Zealand Police.

This was a great opportunity to showcase the fantastic work women are doing in police and the wide variety of careers available to them, as well as how much Police has changed.

As Minister, I was really proud to see the whole organisation embracing this important milestone – and even more proud to see the outpouring of public support it generated, not just for women in Police but for Police in general.

So, well done and thanks again for the Association’s contribution.

New Zealand Police has undergone a significant transformation in the past few years, and it is now embarking on a further period of change and improvement through its Policing Excellence the Future programme.

I am confident that this will make Police even more modern, effective and efficient than it is now, allowing the frontline to provide even better services and deliver even better results to the public.

It is particularly pleasing to see Police confronting some of the very complex and challenging issues that face our communities.

These include the prevalence of family violence and the harm it causes in our communities.

There is no doubt New Zealand has a very serious problem in this regard, with Police attending close to 110,000 family violence incidents a year – on average around one every five minutes of every single day.

The Government is committed to reducing the damage done by family violence, and last month the Prime Minister announced a suite of legislative changes that will bring more support for victims and introduce new offences.

Measures include:

Making the safety of victims a principal consideration in all bail decisions, and central to parenting and property orders;

Flagging all family violence offending on criminal records to ensure Police and the Courts know when they’re dealing with people with histories of family violence;

Creating new offences of non-fatal strangulation and assault on a family member, with tougher sentences than those for common assault. Coercion to marry will also be criminalised;

Enforcing tougher penalties for people who commit crimes while subject to a Protection Order.

The Government is also committed to more “joined up thinking” and cross-agency partnership and co-operation through the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence.

The multi-agency Integrated Safety Response (ISR) pilot in Christchurch, which has been underway since July 4, is a great example of this in action.

The pilot involves core agencies - Police, Child Youth and Family, Corrections, Health, specialist family violence NGOs and kaupapa Māori services - working together as a team to ensure that families experiencing violence get the help and support they need.

A key feature is the identification of ‘high risk’ victims and an independent family violence specialist to support these victims to reduce the risk of further violence.

The pilot has now been up and running for more than two months, and as of this week, it has seen 2373 episodes of violence involving 1690 victims and 1608 perpetrators and created 1761 family safety plans.

I recently had the opportunity to visit the pilot team and see them in action. I was very impressed by the commitment and professionalism on display, and I came away very encouraged that not only is this multi-agency approach the right way to go but also that these are the right people to be doing it.

Another positive initiative is the Family Violence Disclosure Scheme which has been up and running since December.

The Scheme has established a nationally consistent process for disclosing violence information to enable a potential victims to make informed choices about their relationships.

Since the introduction of this Scheme 59 disclosures have been approved.

Another high priority area shared by Police and the Government is gangs and organised crime and the harm done by the drug trade, particularly methamphetamine.

Together with family violence, gangs, organised crime and drugs drive much of Police’s daily workload.

In August 2014, the Prime Minister unveiled the whole-of-Government Gang Action Plan, which is a new approach to reducing the harm gangs do to families and communities.

The plan has four main areas of work and acknowledges that this is a complex problem that cannot be solved through enforcement alone.

A key initiative under the Gang Action Plan is the multi-agency Gang Intelligence Centre, hosted by Police.

This provides an intelligence-led response to gangs and brings together information held by Social Development, Customs, Corrections, Internal Affairs, Immigration, and, of course, Police.

That information is being used in two ways – to disrupt and dismantle illegal gang activities and to identify and offer support to members and associates who want out, both for themselves and for their children.

Among other things, the Gang Intelligence Centre has established the National Gang List, which provides confirmed, corroborated evidence of the number of patched and prospective gang members in New Zealand adult gangs and which is continually updated.

The Government is also fully supportive and appreciative of the efforts being made by Police to target and disrupt the illegal drugs trade.

So far this year, as of September 21, Police has seized more than 840 kilogrammes of methamphetamine, including the 501 kilogrammes recovered in Northland in New Zealand’s biggest ever haul of this devastatingly harmful drug.

That’s an awful lot of misery kept out of our communities and I acknowledge the efforts of all members of Police working in this important area.

At the same time, Police continues to hit criminal gangs and organised crime groups where it hurts – in the pocket.

Since the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act came into force in 2009, $226 million worth of assets have been restrained and a further $138 million forfeited to the Crown.

Recent research has found that for every dollar worth of assets restrained, $3.30 in social harm is prevented and for every dollar of assets forfeited, $3.50 worth of harm is prevented.

That means the use of the Act has so far prevented more than $122 billion of additional harm, and I commend the determination of Police and their partner agencies and organisations to use this ability to stop further offending.

I also welcome the Police’s renewed focus on burglaries, including setting an expectation of full attendance at dwelling burglaries, either by a constabulary or scene of crime officer, within a reasonable time.

Burglary is an invasive crime that can leave its victims feeling vulnerable in the very place they should feel the most safe – their own homes.

Of course, given the nature of policing, there will be times when staff cannot attend dwelling burglaries. But by setting the expectation, Police have made it clear that they’re serious about responding to this type of crime and sent a clear message to offenders. I fully endorse that approach.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I have publicly noted, I have been talking to the Police Executive for some time about the demand pressures for police, including in the priority areas I have just outlined.

The Government has also made significant recent financial investments in policing.  Budget 2016 delivered an extra $299.2 million to Police over the next four years, including $279.9 million to fund pay increases

And of course there are more 600 more officers on the beat than there were in 2009, and advances in technology and strategy have made our police much more efficient.

That said, there is no doubt that demands for Police services have increased considerably and there is pressure on Police resourcing.

I take that very seriously and I have been discussing this with Police and my colleagues for some time.

We’re still working through the numbers but recently the Prime Minister confirmed that the government is likely to increase the number of Police.

This is great news for Police and New Zealanders.

Despite the increased demand for services, New Zealand Police continue to deliver excellent results for New Zealanders.

Public trust and confidence in Police remains high at 78% according to the 2015 Citizens Satisfaction Survey.

The same survey showed 93% of people feel safe or very safe in their neighbourhood.

And earlier this month, New Zealand was ranked fourth safest country in the Global Peace Index.

I know that’s something that police treasures and works hard to build on and maintain, and it’s something all members of Police should be very proud of.

When I visit districts and stations, I am always impressed by the commitment and professionalism of the staff I meet, and as Minister, you have my absolute backing for the work you do.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank-you once again for the opportunity to outline some of the key issues and priorities for Police and policing as I see them.

In a moment, I will take a few questions from the floor, but in the meantime, I wish you all the very best for a productive and informative conference.

On that note, I now declare the New Zealand Police Association’s 81st Annual Conference open.