Government want police at isolation facilities, but Association unhappy

Minister in charge of Covid isolation facilities Megan Woods announced today there would be a permanent police presence at all isolation and quarantine facilities, but the Police Association says it is

Managed isolation and quarantine update

Following a second incident in which a person escaped from a managed isolation facility, security is being enhanced, including more police presence onsite, Minister Megan Woods said.

“The actions of some individuals who choose to break the very clear rules to stay within the facilities means that more resourcing is needed to protect other New Zealanders from the risk they may present.

“This behaviour is incredibly disappointing, but we are determined to maintain the freedoms we enjoy as New Zealanders in one of the few countries in the world who are free of community transmission of COVID.

“Air Commodore Darryn Webb and I have been speaking with New Zealand Police about implementing further security measures, and there will now be a permanent police presence at each facility,” Megan Woods said.

By tomorrow there will be one police officer stationed at each facility 24/7.

Extra senior security staff will also be added to each facility and security fencing has been boosted.

“All outdoor physical security around facilities that require fencing, including exercise and smoking areas, will have 6 foot high fencing installed by the end of today,” said Darryn Webb.

A lot of people and resources going into trying to stop a small number of people from not following the rules.

But (RNZ):  Police at isolation facilities may mean public less safe – police union

Police Association president Chris Cahill told RNZ’s Checkpoint the move had political elements, and was not the best use of police resources.

He said there was certainly an element of a feel good factor, and it was a distinct possibility that it would mean the public was less safe than otherwise.

“Is that the best priority? To feel good, if it doesn’t actually have a dramatic change in the security of those facilities? … I don’t believe it does.

“I think there’s a degree of making it look that politicians are doing the utmost they can – and I understand that, and New Zealanders want the utmost to be done – but I don’t believe that requires 24/7 police presence.”

He said to fully staff and monitor the managed isolation facilities would take between 150 and 200 police officers who were needed in the community.

“We’ve got police districts that don’t have many more than 200, 250 sworn staff, some of our smaller police districts, so it’s a significant number. It’s certainly not a core policing role.

As simple as this – there will not be cops available to attend family harm incidents, to attend injuries, to attend burglaries, to be on the roads patrolling for dangerous drivers. They have to come from somewhere and that’s the front line.

“This is a job that can be done by aviation security staff, customs staff, immigration staff – the people that aren’t fully utilised due to Covid issues that are created at the border.”

He believed Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield could give those staff the powers they needed to do the job just as effectively as police.

There were already 400 Defence Force troops stationed at the facilities and, he argued, there was not much need to have police there as well.

And security staff.

“If there was clear evidence that police powers were required regularly because people were trying to break the quarantine rules that would be understandable, but there’s no evidence supporting that.

“Policing can be called in when there is a significant issue of someone not following the rules but we’ve only seen two people that appear to have breached those rules so it’s not an issue of having all these officers standing around wating for that to happen.

“I think you have to be realistic. Two runners out of thousands of people that have gone into quarantine is not a great number and my information is only one of those was deliberate, one of them was ignorance.”

Is a 24/7 police presence necessary to protect the public from Covid (presuming the police would be able to stop all ‘escapes’ from facilities)?

Or is the Government putting too many resources and too much money into it to try to avoid the bad political look of people and virus leaks?

Leave a comment

10 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  9th July 2020

    Pete, your last sentence sums it up.
    I agree with Cahill.
    It’s all about making the COL look good.
    The security guards can undertake a citizens arrest as can the military personnel.
    Or is that no longer PC ?
    What the hell is wrong with this government in not enabling those charged with enforcing our laws the rights to do their job ?

    Reply
    • The security guards can call 111 like anyone else. They must have some rights, surely, or it’s waste of time having them there. Why not take on more of them? It would give people a job and training and leave the cops free to do what cops do.

      The police can’t be at every point where someone could possibly get out, so it’s pointless anyway, one would imagine.

      Reply
  2. They’ll be damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

    Reply
  3. Geoffrey

     /  9th July 2020

    This is a classic example of where the military in support of the civil power is appropriately deployed. Take the Air Commodore away, put in a Lt Col and half a battalion of troops and tell them to get on with it.
    The current farce of a front person with no men, police with no leader and no men and pollies trying to look good while under-resourcing this mission is a total shambles.
    COVID is a different scenario to what NZ has previously dealt with. It requires a response that is novel to our domestic experience but which is bread and butter to an infantry unit.
    Either give up on the idea of controlling our borders or stop nancying about with a real problem.

    Reply
  4. oldlaker

     /  10th July 2020

    The govt and Ardern had no worries about community roadblocks run by Maori (including Mongrel Mob members) intimidating car drivers and passengers. Police were only added as a cover late in the piece when media started asking why illegal roadblocks were sanctioned.
    Now, the police suddenly have to be everywhere there is an isolation facility. Surely security guys could just follow the precedent set by their forebears at roadblocks and heavy the internees in the interests of keeping their “vulnerable” communities safe?

    Reply
  5. Geoffrey

     /  10th July 2020

    There is plenty of precedent for empowering assigned military personnel as Special Constables with limited authority.

    Reply
  6. Geoffrey

     /  10th July 2020

    While not forgetting it’s primary purpose, the military is an invaluable source of disciplined manpower which can be deployed quickly to counter a large variety of emergencies. Our governments over the years seem to forget that as they systematically seek to pare it down.

    Reply

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