Police Assn wishlist for election year

A blanket gang patch ban, raising the drinking age to 20, harsher penalties for fleeing drivers, and Tasers for all cops are some of the election year suggestions from the Police Association.

The Police Association represents about 11,000 police employees nationwide.

Association president Greg O'Connor this afternoon presented law and order election year proposals to Police Minister Anne Tolley.

Among the association's proposal is a call to give laws targeting "fleeing drivers" teeth.

The Police Association wants mandatory vehicle impounding and licence suspension penalties to crack down on fleeing drivers. It also wants a policy for compulsory third party vehicle insurance for all drivers.

Following police pursuit crashes, reports tended to criticise officers for not abandoning the chase, Police Association president Greg O'Connor said. 

The resulting perception was that police would abandon pursuits of drivers fleeing at high speed - through red lights, or on the wrong side of the road - which in turn encouraged dangerous drivers to evade police.

O'Connor said the death of a man in Auckland in a police pursuit this past weekend highlighted the issue.

"New Zealanders have made it clear they don't want police speeding and increasing the danger on the roads. However, in doing so the danger has been that we have increased the incentive for drivers to actually have a go at trying to get away."  

Tolley said if National achieved another term in power she would support talks with police about how to address the issue.

She said the idea of more Tasers and firearms was an operational issue for police. 

"I don't pick up any appetite from the public for them to be generally armed." 

National was not proposing a gang patch ban, as Tolley said the focus should be on discouraging people from joining gangs. 

"They would just go underground and their violence and their habits and behaviour wouldn't change at all."

Crime rates nationwide are continuing to fall, but O’Connor warned police face mounting pressure over static law and order spending - leading to "stretched" resources.

"Sooner or later that build up of pressure leads to failure, scandal and crises," he said.

Tolley said police had shown they could work well within their budget.

However, National's measures to crack down on gangs introduced this month - which includes a $1.6m spend on a gang intelligence centre - signalled the Government's willingness to invest in policing, she said. As for the calls to lift the drinking age, Tolley said the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act which came into force late last year was still "settling in" and its success would be monitored before any further changes were considered.

Police Association proposals:

— Raise the minimum alcohol purchasing age from 18 to 20.

— Impose trading hours restrictions to ensure alcohol is not sold after 10pm from off-licence venues like supermarkets, and after 3am from bars.

— A nationwide gang patch ban.

— Fulltime carriage of Tasers for all frontline police officers and more firearms training, with a view to more cops being armed fulltime.

— Funding for 1900 more police.

— Give police greater powers to intervene in brewing disorder situations such as ‘‘out-of-control’’ parties.

— Amending bail laws to prevent people behind bars on remand from contacting their alleged victims. They currently can receive visitors and make phone calls which the association says is an area of concern for prosecuting domestic violence cases.

— Address court delays and increase their resourcing.

The Dominion Post