Cops are leaving the Bay in droves

TRACEY CHATTERTON
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2013

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Hawke's Bay police are leaving in droves amid claims of a "draconian climate" after a regional restructure.

More than 20 officers have left since the Napier and Hastings areas merged into one Hawke's Bay unit under Inspector Tania Kura in August last year.

Eleven officers have resigned, three retired and nine have transferred out of the district.

Officers who spoke to The Sunday Star Times on condition of anonymity said the restructuring had lowered morale, with new management taking a "my way or the highway approach".

One officer who has quit labelled it the most "unsavoury and draconian climate" he had ever worked in. Another senior officer said people weren't opposed to the changes but rather how people were being treated.

"You used to be treated like an individual but under the new management you're just a number."

Kura's management style was unpopular, with more officers turning up just "to get their pay and keep their head down", he said.

But Kura said she was not concerned. Staff turnover within the Eastern District was lower than the national average, sitting at 4.6 per cent, compared to 5.2 per cent.

Kura said change always impacted morale and some staff did not agree with her way of doing things.

But moving staff between districts would lead to a more efficient police force, Kura said.

There have been two rounds of restructuring: merging Napier and Hastings andthe moving the district towards the new nationwide Prevention First model.

Kura said it would have been better if both rounds of restructuring occurred together, as some people, mostly middle management, had been through the process twice.

The 2013 New Zealand Police workplace survey supports officers' sentiments.

It shows in Hawke's Bay more police staff were disengaged than engaged.

More than 60 per cent of Eastern District police complained about a lack of open and honest communication. Many felt their views and opinions were not being heard and their wellbeing neglected.

Officers also indicated harassment, bullying or discrimination were not being addressed..

Former constable Brendon Berkett feels let down by management after a firearm was pointed in his face.

He did not know he was staring down the barrel of a fake gun during the incident at the Hastings police station.

Berkett was so traumatised he suffered flashbacks and had taken stress leave. He said it took human relations at least a week to ask about his well-being.

Disappointed by what he felt was a lack of management support, he resigned. "No one seemed interested in why I was resigning."

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He said he was not offered a leave of absence or asked to complete an exit interview, even though such interviews were part of police policy.

Kura acknowledged the police trauma policy was not followed when it should have been. Once management found out about Berkett's concerns, they immediately contacted him, she said.

"He was given welfare support and the acting area commander at the time of the incident personally visited Brendan several times."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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