Police chief calls for cut in prisoners

Last updated 05:00 25/11/2010
Police Commissioner Howard Broad
Police Commissioner Howard Broad

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Police Commissioner Howard Broad has issued a surprise plea to cut prison numbers to stem an "absolute wave" of criminals through the justice system.

Months away from the end of his five-year tenure as commissioner, Mr Broad spoke frankly to MPs on Parliament's law and order select committee yesterday.

His deputy commissioner, Viv Rickard, was subject to prolonged questions from Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove about police numbers.

Mr Broad intervened, saying he understood and accepted that Mr Cosgrove was asking questions about the numbers "for political reasons".

However, there was a growing number of people wondering if sending more people to prison was "the correct way to go".

"I get a bit worried that, if we focus too much on the constabulary numbers, that we are going to hobble the police future of delivering high-quality services at the most efficient cost," Mr Broad said.

"There are some ways of delivering public services other than through constabulary staff."

Mr Cosgrove said the National Government had added only 30 frontline police and violence had gone up.

But Mr Broad said the "traditional model of policing" had "delivered a wave of criminals in to the system – an absolute wave". He told reporters prison was for "serious offenders".

"It's tempting to use prison as a minor, intermediate sort of sanction.

"But the evidence seems to be that the `university of the prison' is a fact and it exists and that we should do everything we can to avoid people going down that track.

"One of the worst things that you can do for an emerging young offender is to group them together with other emerging young offenders. The whole idea is actually preventing crime in the first place."

Mr Broad's term as commissioner ends in April, with deputies Mr Rickard and Rob Pope both possible replacements.

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- The Dominion Post

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