831 new frontline Police officers in financial year

A record number of Police officers were trained in the 2018/19 financial year with 831 new front line officers deployed around the country. Since the Coalition Government was formed there have been 1,367 new recruits have graduated.  Some of those will have been planned under the previous government, but the new government has boosted those numbers.

This looks to be well on it’s way to fulfilling a commitment made in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement:

Law and order

  • Strive towards adding 1800 new Police officers over three years and commit to a serious
    focus on combatting organised crime and drugs.

Government: Greatest number of new Police in a single year

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of 78 new constables means a total of 831 new frontline Police have been deployed to communities around the country during the 2018/19 financial year.

“The previous highest number of new Police in one financial year occurred 21 years ago when 683 officers graduated during 1997/98,” says Mr Nash.

“Since the Coalition Government was formed 1,367 new recruits have graduated from the Police College at Porirua and from two innovative training wings in Auckland.

“The Wellbeing Budget contains more than $260 million in new initiatives for Police. Thanks to this new investment, Police can strengthen controls on the use of firearms. They will be able to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation and begin the next stage of reforms to reduce the risk of firearms falling into the wrong hands.”

The new initiatives for Police include:

  • $168 million for payments and administration of the gun buyback scheme;
  • $41.8 million to tackle family violence;
  • $5.86 million for victim video statements;
  • $37.19 million to provide all emergency services (Police, Fire, Ambulance) with state of the art new digital communications capabilities and to ensure the integrity of the current system in the interim;
  • $8.778 million for other initiatives across the wider justice sector, such as mental health, addiction and alcohol and drug programmes.

“In addition we are making a substantial investment of $455 million in frontline mental health services. Police officers have been under pressure because a lack of health resources meant they were the first line of response to mental health needs. Improving mental health care is one of our long-term challenges,” Mr Nash says.

The boost in mental health services has taken longer to implement, but it should take pressure off police resources, and will hopefully reduce crime committed by people with mental health issues.

Targeting more asset seizures from criminals

The Minister of Police and the Police are targeting an increase in asset seizures from criminals.  The Government is already promoting this revenue as a means of paying for policy implementation.

On Wednesday the Government announced New addiction treatment facilities for Auckland City Mission

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Government funding to increase the number of beds available in Auckland for drug and alcohol detoxification by 50 per cent.

Currently there are a total of 20 detox beds funded in the Auckland region, which will be moved to Mission HomeGround once it is complete in two years’ time. All up it will house 30 studio units (15 medical detox beds and 15 social detox beds) – allowing for an increase of ten beds.

The $16.7 million will be drawn from money recovered under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.

“This development will help turn lives around. I can’t think of a better use of the funds recovered from the proceeds of crime than that,” Jacinda Ardern said.

This is a welcome increase in drug addiction facilities.

I didn’t realise that proceeds of seized assets went into a special pot that could be then applied to specific purposes.

A day later stuff reported: Police aim to seize millions from gangs, new cabinet paper reveals

A new police target aiming to seize $500 million from gangs may only serve to further marginalise a hard-to-reach community, those on the inside say.

A Cabinet paper seen by Stuff shows Police Minister Stuart Nash and Police Commissioner Mike Bush have set four new “high-level outcome targets”, while also retaining most of the previous government’s nine performance targets at an operational level.

The targets include $500m in cash and assets seized from gangs and criminals by 2021.

Nash said a small number of key targets would help focus police on priority areas, and since taking on the job, he has been clear about his plan to focus on gang-related crime.

The Government’s aim of confiscating $500m in cash and assets from gangs is an extension of the former National government’s target – $400m by 2021.

It’s a significant increase on the previous target, but not a huge amount. And it must amount to guessing, similar to claims made for a long time from Governments about how much tax evasion they will recover money from.

Last week, Nash told RNZ it was unrealistic to say police would wipe out all gangs.

“What we want to do is go incredibly hard against the gang leaders responsible for these meth rings, or drug rings,” he said.

But Nash refused to talk to Stuff about this issue.

The RNZ article: Insight: Future of Gangs

Police Minister Stuart Nash said it was unrealistic to try to eliminate all gangs, but he wants to “go incredibly hard” against gang leaders who are running drug operations.

He said about 700 police staff would go into the organised crime squad, something he described as “a massive increase in resource.”

An increase in asset seizures is likely to mean an increase in arrests and probably convictions , and an increase in imprisonments – and the Government will need much more than an extra $100 million over four years house the increasing prisoner numbers.

Remarkable admissions from Police Minister Nash

The Government has already received growing criticism for arrogance unusual this early in a first term, and have been already shown to have ignored or not south advice before making important decisions on a number of occasions.

So Minister of Police Stuart Nash’s brash admissions yesterday in Parliament are remarkable in their arrogance and lack of attention paid to advice.

NZH: Police Minister Stuart Nash admits he didn’t read advice on phasing rollout of new police

Police Minister Stuart Nash has admitted he didn’t read official advice on options for phasing in 1800 new police officers over five years.

The Government says it will deliver 1800 new officers over three years. There are concerns that will put more pressure on the prison system.

Nash was questioned on the advice from police by National’s Chris Bishop in a a parliamentary committee on Thursday. He responded:

“I didn’t read any paper that said phasing in over five years. For me, phasing in over five years was just not an option I was prepared to consider.”

“I don’t read papers like that because there is a coalition promise that I will work to deliver. Any paper, any suggestion, that we are not going to meet our coalition deal of 1800 police over three years, certainly one that suggests its going to take five years, I’m just not even interested in seeing.”

Bishop: “You are kidding? Are you seriously saying to the committee that you received a paper about phasing options for the coalition commitment that you are talking about and you didn’t read it?”

“Not even interested,” Nash responded.

Nash said he had not ignored that advice but preferred police advice over that of Justice and Corrections.

“We get advice from all over the place … you have to make a decision on whether you take that advice or whether you take other advice.

“On the balance of probabilities I’ve taken police advice over Justice and Corrections advice.”

Nash said he “absolutely believed” that more police would reduce crime and the number of people in prison.

This looks like another policy that the Government are pushing rejecting any advice warning of potential issues.

The odds are that some Ministers will end up implementing policies that improve things, but there are also high chances of ignored consequences.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this came up again in Question Time today. (As ‘Albert’ noted this won’t be happening today. It’s Friday – my head was still in Thursday when wrote that).

 

 

 

Unequal human rights

Should prisoners have reduced human rights? Minister of Police Paula Bennett seems to think some should be treated differently

RNZ: Serious criminals ‘have fewer human rights’ – National

Serious criminals should have fewer human rights than others, according to the National Party’s police spokesperson Paula Bennett.

Ms Bennett and the party’s leader Bill English have announced National’s policy to crack down on gangs and the supply and manufacture of methamphetamine.

The plan would give police the power to search the cars and houses of the most serious criminal gang members, at any time, for firearms through the use of new prohibition orders, which would be given at the discretion of police.

I have two serious concerns so far. If they want to search cars and houses that surely means suspected criminals, or alleged criminals.

And ‘discretion of police’ sounds warning bells. Surely there should be some checks on what the police can do, like needing to obtain warrants.

Ms Bennett said that would probably breach the human rights of those gang members.

That’s a worrying admission.

“We just feel that there are some gang members that are creating more harm and continuing to.

“Some have fewer human rights than others when they are creating a string of victims behind them … there is a different standard.”

Mr English said he was comfortable with the policy.

“We’re comfortable that this is a tool which will enable the front line of our police to deal more effectively with the structure of the distribution of meth and the dangers of firearms.

“It will go right through the legislative process, so of course this will be argued.”

Without seeing details I’m quite uncomfortable with this.

National’s plan would invest $42 million over four years to fund a crackdown on gangs and the supply of serious drugs.

Aside from new police powers, it would double the number of drug dog teams and introduce them in domestic airports, ferries and mail centres to clamp down on trafficking. Penalties for manufacturing and distributing synthetic cannabis would be increased from a maximum of two years’ imprisonment to eight years, but no changes to charges for possession.

Gang members on a benefit would also have to justify expensive assets worth more than $10,000, otherwise their benefit could be cancelled or be declined.

Ms Bennett said serious drugs like methamphetamine and the gangs who peddle them were a scourge on society.

“These drug dealers are destroying lives for profit and greed and these drugs have no place in our country.”

I agree that drug pushing and dealing is abhorrent and a serious problem, but as important as it is to try to combat this more effectively it is also important to have a High standard of human rights, and also adequate controls on police investigations and enforcement.

What if the Police search someone’s car or house and find no drugs or firearms? Too bad, as long as they look a bit like criminals?

UPDATE: The Spinof – Mask off: National decides gang members have “fewer human rights”

If you can – and this is clearly impossible – detach yourself from its horror, the policy is fascinating as a perfect view into the debates which roil inside the National party. It perfectly encapsulates the two impulses it has contained, in announcing 1500 new drug treatment places (seems good, seems like the modern, friendly, Bill English wing) while also promising to just wander into the homes of gang members, without a warrant, just because.

Its launch at a West Auckland drug treatment facility captures the squirming dichotomy perfectly. It is meant to scream ‘we care’ to the mainstream on the 6pm news, while the “fewer human rights” grab will play on ZB tomorrow, a bone for the tough-on-crime crowd to gnaw on.

What we’re really seeing is the party under sustained pressure for the first time in nine years…

Hence this policy, one which seems ripped from the ‘70s headlines, asserting that certain types of New Zealanders are fundamentally less human than others. It’s the National party of old’s coffin lid creaking open, a zombie back out to fight an election in 2017. We’ll find out what Bill English really thinks about it when he records his episode of the 9th Floor. Unless this somewhat grotesque new strategy gains traction, that moment won’t be far off.

I think this policy has the potential to stuff any chance National has of reversing Labour’s positive momentum. It may appeal to Natikonal’s base and some further to the right with few other voting options, but it is going to struggle with the swing voters who have been veering towards Labour.

Q+A: Paula Bennett

This morning NZ Q+A interviews  Paula Bennett:

Will increasing police numbers reduce crime? Is it time to limit visitor numbers before we ruin the tourist experience for everyone?

Jessica Mutch interviews Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett about two of her big portfolios – police and tourism.

Looking in particular at Chines tourism, and how can our infrastructure cope with the increasing numbers.

A balance of quantity versus quality.

She’s not a big fan of a tourist tax because NZ is already “really expensive” for visitors.

When she’s on a serious topic in a formal interview Bennett comes across as well informed about her responsibilities.

Interview: No tourist tax because NZ is too “expensive” – Tourism Minister (7:24)

Interview: Catching up on police numbers – Police Minister (7:49)

Panel response: Paula Bennett – Panel (9:57)

 

Minister of Police on cannabis use

This could be seen as remarkable from the Minister of Police:

It may take a while to swing the National caucus into modern world thinking on cannabis use but their new generation – recently Nikki Kaye also expressed support at least for medicinal cannabis – will gradually take over.

Seymour v Collins on euthanasia checkpoints

David Seymour kicked off Question Time in parliament yesterday by quizzing Minister of Police Judith Collins on whether she believed “the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety.”

Collins avoided answering this and follow up questions by claiming she couldn’t respond even in general due to a specific incident being referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

PoliceRoadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.

David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.

David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.


Seymour followed up with a press release:

Minister ducks for cover on inappropriate use of police resources

The Minister of Police has failed to reassure New Zealanders that someone will take responsibility for any misuse of police resources to target euthanasia groups. She hides behind due process today while she is happy to crow about police operations when it suits, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When New Zealanders see a blatant abuse of civil liberties, they expect someone to be held accountable. At the very least they expect the appropriate Minister to have a view on the principles of good policy. New Zealanders should be disappointed on both counts today.

“Astoundingly, Judith Collins refused to acknowledge what anyone can see: that surveillance of assisted dying advocates is ethically wrong and legally dodgy, not to mention a complete waste of police resources when burglary is spiking 18% in the last year.

“The Minister refused to share any view on this behaviour, saying it would be inappropriate given an inquiry is under way by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. ACT respects this due process, but it needn’t prevent the Minister from expressing a general view, particularly one who is not usually reluctant in sharing her opinions.

“She hasn’t shied away from crowing about other initiatives such as recent anti-burglary measures. Core police operations suffer when resources are thrown at harassing advocacy groups, but the Minister offers no comment. Apparently she only likes to comment on good news.”

It would be good if the Minister of Police could at least assure the public that breath testing checkpoints won’t be used illegally to detain members of the public travelling legally.

Farrar on Minister’s brother being charged

David Farrar at Kiwiblog has a carefully worded post Why standing down a Minister for their brother is absolutely wrong.

Most people accept you should not stand down a Minister because a family member has done something wrong.

In general I think that’s correct.

Now a few have argued that it is different if the Minister holds a portfolio in the justice sector, such as Justice, Police, Corrections etc. Again, they are wrong. They are not wrong that it may create a conflict that needs managing, but they are absolutely wrong that the way you manage that is by the Minister standing down.

And that’s a fair point. The Opposition tend to cry resign or cry stand down too readily and too often.

Let’s say the person charged is the brother of the Minister of Justice. Should they stand down because their brother has been charged? Well if you stand down the Minister of Justice because their brother has been prosecuted, then you’re saying that they may have been able to interfere in the case if they had not stood down.

Now that is wrong. The Police and Crown Law have statutory independence in their functions (apart from a few small areas where the Attorney-General plays a role). No Minister can interfere in decisions around police investigations, charges, bail, prosecutions, trials, convictions, sentencing, or parole.

The proof of an independent justice system is when (as has happened here) the Police can and do investigate the sibling of a cabinet minister, and do decide to prosecute them and charge them. The fact this happens while the Minister remains in office is a strength, not a weakness.

Yes, it can be seen as a strength. Except by some people who will inevitably claim political/police collusion.

If a minister who holds a portfolio in the justice sector has a family member charged with an offence, the only thing that needs to be done is to make sure that the Minister is not briefed or in the loop in any way on the prosecution. As Ministers are not briefed on such things anyway, that should not be difficult.

Sounds reasonable to me.

Little on Key and Sabin

More of Andrew Little’s interview with Duncan Garner on Radio Live about John Key’s handling of the Mike Sabin police inquiry (see also Sabin chaired Law & Order committee after Key knew).

Garner: So when do you think the police told somebody at Parliament?

Little: Well I think they told them earlier than that. I mean it’s pretty, they’ve accepted now that my office told the Prime Minister’s office on the 25th November, and they say they knew even before that.

They’ve now said it was they day before that and, but I would be confident that the police would have told them when they were commencing the investigation which you know could be a lot earlier than that.

Garner: So when are you saying that the police told, are you saying the police told the police minister?

Little: I am very confident that the police told the Police Minister. I don’t know when that is, but my hunch would be that it was earlier than the end of November.

Garner:  Don’t you need more than a hunch?

Little: Yes I do, but what we need is Ministers to answer questions, pretty simple questions put to them –  when did the Police Commissioner brief you on this?

Garner: And Michael Woodhouse has said he has no further comment. Is that good enough?

Little: It’s not good enough. He’s a Minister. He’s gotta answer questions. We know that when the police deal with sensitive investigations they brief the Police Minister. That much we know.

They would have briefed the Police Minister on this. And what we need to know is when that happened. We’ve got a Police Minister that refuses to answer questions. That’s totally unacceptable too.

Garner: But that can’t last can it, surely this will be cleared up at some stage?

Little: Well Parliament resumes this week. We will put questions to the Police Minister. He’s got to answer questions for it. You know it’s just unbelievable that in this day and age a Minister would think that they can just try and get off the hook by just refusing to answer questions on this sort of matter.

This is likely to happen in the first Question Time of the year in Parliament on Wednesday. In theire questions they need to make sure they cover whether the current or previous Minister was briefed.

Garner: Can I put it to you that New Zealanders do not care about this?

Little: Listen I hear that a lot, people saying oh this is just Parliament and all the rest of it.

Actually this is about how Parliament runs, and it’s about the integrity of Parliamentary processes.

The idea, I mean MPs are required to declare conflicts of interest over much smaller matters than this. But this is a guy who was under a police investigation chairing the committee that provides oversight of the police. It’s outrageous, it shouldn’t have happened…

It shouild have been Sabin who declared a conflict of interest. By resigning he is escaping scrutiny on that.

Garner: Why shouldn’t the Prime Minister though be protecting Mike Sabin here or hiding something, what’s in it for him?

Little: I don’t know, maybe he thinks New Zealanders don’t care about this. Maybe he thinks New Zealanders think oh this is just Parliamentary stuff, just political point scoring and all that sort of stuff, actually it’s a serious issue about what sort of standards we want Parliament to observe and MPs to observe. That’s why it’s important.

Garner: So are you saying, are you standing by your claims that the Prime Minister is a liar?

Little: Well I think that the Prime Minister knew before he says he knew, ah but we need the police to confirm or the Police Minister to confirm when he was told. That’s what it comes down to.

Garner: Do you have enough evidence to accuse him for being a liar though?

Little: Oh well I’m confident that the police department, probably the Police Commissioner briefed the Government, or cetainly the Police Minister and probably also the Prime Minister before the first of December, and certainly before the Prime Minister says he knew, but look you know the truth is we need if not the Police Commissioner to confirm the date on which he did the briefing then the Police Minister to front up and do his job and tell us…

Garner: So Mr Little you think the Prime Minister’s a liar, is that right? I’m just trying to clear this up.

Little:  I know you are, and I know you want me to use those words…

Garner: Well no I don’t, I just want…

Little: I don’t think he’s being straight with New Zealanders when he says they first he knew was the first of December, I just don’t believe that, I just don’t believe his Government would be so sloppy that people who knew on the 26th of November and before that wouldn’t have told the Prime Minister that an MP in his party was under a police investigation and was chairing the committee in Parliament that provides oversight of the police.

I just don’t believe they would be that careless and cavalier and stupid for that to happen.

Sloppy is one of the least bad possibilities.

Garner: If it’s proven that the Prime Minister knew before the date that he says he knew, do you think he should resign as the Prime Minister? Do you think this is that serious?

Little: He’s certainly got some pretty serious questions to answer about whu he would allow one of his MPs to go through a massive conflict of interest like this, because it comes down to the integrity of Parliament’s procedures…

Garner: But if he’s proven to, but if it is proven along the way that he’s n ot telling the truth and hasn’t told the truth, do you think that he should stand down as the Prime Minister?

Little: I, listen I haven’t gone that far, you know I, this is a serious matter cause it’s about Parliament and out standards and our processes, ah I’ll have a good think about that but we need to know from the Police Commissioner or the Police Minister when that briefing took place.

We should be told when that briefing took place. The Minister of Police should also be asked if he passed it on to the Prime Minister directly, and if so when. Or if and when he advised the Prime Minister’s office.

It looks like Michael Woodhouse has played for time by refusing to comment to date but he should have to be up front in Parliament when questioned.

I think Little has got about the right balance on this and is targeting the right questions at this stage of the issue. He is wisely not committing to how serious a position he thinks this places the Prime Minister in. Too little is currently known at this stage.

And there is also the secret elephant in the room – how serious the offences were. If they were as some claim and if Sabin has been or will be proven guilty then the seriousness escalates somewhat.

Even if just under investigation for that sort of charge Sabin should have been stood down immediately.

If Key didn’t know what others claim to have known by 1 December then serious questions need to be asked about Key’s or his office’s management.