Police lobby group outlines its wishlist

Harsher penalties for fleeing drivers, a rise in the drinking age, and Tasers for all officers are among items on the Police Association's election-year wishlist.

The association, which represents about 11,000 police employees, presented the list to Police Minister Anne Tolley yesterday, with president Greg O'Connor challenging all political parties to give teeth to laws targeting fleeing drivers.

The association wants such drivers to face mandatory vehicle impounding and licence suspension, and calls for compulsory third-party vehicle insurance.

O'Connor said negative publicity for officers involved in fatal crashes during pursuits had led to more chases being abandoned, and more people getting away with dangerous driving.

The death of a man in Auckland in a crash after a police pursuit last weekend highlighted the issue, he said.

"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 that, if National won another term, she would support talks with police on the subject.

Labour police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern was also interested. "It does warrant further investigation and is potentially a good idea," she said.

However, Tolley deflected the association's call for more officers to be armed, saying it was an operational issue for police. "I don't pick up any appetite from the public for them to be generally armed."

Commissioner Mike Bush recently told The Dominion Post he would not advocate for police to be fully armed.

The association also called for a blanket ban on gang patches. Tolley said National was not proposing such a ban, as 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."

National's measures introduced this month to crack down on gangs - including $1.6 million to be spent on a gang intelligence centre - signalled its willingness to invest, she said.

Ardern said police did not deserve to have resources frozen, and called on Tolley to reduce the ratios of police staff to civilians.

"I am already hearing concerns from the police that they are feeling the pressure more and more," she said.

Neither Ardern nor Tolley backed the association's call for the drinking age to be raised from 18 to 20, saying tougher liquor laws introduced at the end of 2013 continued to be monitored.

The Dominion Post