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.

Nash clash on police recruits

Labour’s police spokesperson Stuart Nash received a barrage of criticism for comments he made after agreeing with Police concerns about recruits who use anti-depressants, despite Nash apologising.

Stuff reported: Police, Labour defend ban of recruits on anti-depressants

Police say recruits on anti-depressants pose a risk to the police force, a view the Mental Health Foundation has slammed as unacceptable.

Marty Fox, the police national manager of wellness and safety, defended the policy preventing new recruits on anti-depressants from joining the police, and said patients on anti-depressants were in danger of “spontaneously” relapsing.

That was “a risk for NZ Police”, he said.

Nash agreed:

Stuart Nash, Labour’s spokesman for police, agreed with the policy saying it protected those with a precondition from harmful situations.

“I think there are enough people out there who would make brilliant police officers without any existing mental health condition.

“Do we want someone with an existing mental health condition in the police force, considering the high degree of stress, week-in week-out, that a lot of these officers face?

“I just think it’s a lot safer for men and women who want to become police, and for our communities, if people who want to enter the police don’t have an existing condition.”

Nash was criticised in the article:

However Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson said Nash’s comments were “simple-minded and unacceptable” and those with mental illnesses often dealt with stress better than those without.

“It is doubly disappointing that a Labour Party spokesperson is trying to defend discrimination and is in fact revealing an extremely disappointing degree of ignorance about mental health.

“If they [people with mental illness] have been supported well then they will have also learned ways to manage stress in order to maintain their health and wellbeing.”

Robinson thought the reasoning was “complete gobbledegook”.

“It is not correct to say that anyone who is on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication that the aim is eventually not be on anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication.

Robinson said Ministry of Health surveys indicated one in every two New Zealanders would experience a diagnosable mental illness in their lifetime.

“This is not a small number of people and it is not a small number of people who will be excluded from potentially serving in the police force.”

This criticism was picked up on in social media and Nash was slammed on Twitter. This prompted an apology in response from Nash.

This wasn’t enough for some who continued to gnash their virtual teeth. For example:

Nashgnash

That is criticism from the left.

Fair enough to criticise Nash for jumping in and commenting on a sensitive topic without doing due diligence first.

But it’s refreshing to see a politician own up toy their mistake and apologise.

Social media, and the New Zealand Twitterrati in particular, frequently pile on indiscretions and mistakes, often overstepping in attempts to ridicule, shame and silence people or stances they don’t like.

It would be a real shame if all our politicians carefully checked and sanitised everything they spoke about – there’s far too much of that as it is.

Nash stuffed up – as we all do sometimes – and owned up, which too few politicians are prepared to do, so I think he deserves some credit at least for that rather than being blasted with an ongoing barrage of abuse.

Perhaps Nash operates on his own too much. He should have learnt from this experience. I doubt whether the Twitteratti has though.