Marshall defends closure of police offices

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall is defending the closure of 10 offices during the past year.

Labour MP Phil Goff yesterday accused the Government of misleading the public and said Police Minister Anne Tolley had given a commitment a year ago that no police stations would close.

"You've closed 10 stations since September last year, eight of them in Auckland, and that's probably not the full story because my local police station has had 'temporarily closed' on its door for the last four months," Mr Goff, the MP for Mt Roskill, told Mrs Tolley during a law and order committee meeting at Parliament yesterday.

There was an angry outburst when Mrs Tolley told the committee there was a difference between police stations, and community stations and kiosks.

"Some of those are being closed and no-one's ever denied that."

Mr Marshall said he had been asked the same question last year and he had given an assurance no police stations would be closed for financial reasons.

"I stand by that statement. A number of bases - whether you call them kiosks or community bases and indeed a police station - have been closed purely for operational reasons because we have decided it does not fit the type of business and service we want to provide to a community at any given time."

The offices closed by police included those in Orewa and downtown Auckland, the Porirua community constable base and Halswell Community Office.

Figures supplied by the police show a survey of community police centres in Petone, Naenae and Wainuiomata found that fewer than 1.5 visitors an hour called in to those offices and most were for meetings, contractors delivering goods, people reporting on bail and wanting general community information. Less than a third were reporting a crime or inquiring about lost property.

The committee was told that changes, including the issue of thousands of iPhones and iPads for frontline police, had freed up the equivalent of 300 fulltime staff, or about 30 minutes an officer a shift, because they did not have to travel to and from a station.

But there was acrimony over the man credited with driving much of that change - Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush, after Labour MP Trevor Mallard appeared to threaten his job for comments made at the funeral of former police officer Bruce Hutton.

Mr Bush is tipped as a future commissioner, but Mr Mallard implied Labour wanted him out of the force.

"We're deciding whether or not to continue his salary, that's what we're deciding now."

Mr Hutton was found to have planted evidence that led to the murder conviction of Arthur Allan Thomas. Mr Bush said at his funeral that Mr Hutton had been described as a man of the highest integrity.

Mrs Tolley said Mr Mallard was a bully. She also defended Mr Bush's comments.

Mr Bush had never meant to offend and his comments were for the "wife, children and grandchildren" of a former police officer, she said. She confirmed the reference to Mr Hutton being a man of the highest integrity was on his service record.

Mr Bush said he had never meant to offend anyone.

The Dominion Post