Boomerang cops, foreign recruits considered after 'horrific' holiday road toll
Calls are mounting for more police on the roads as the summer holiday road toll officially closed at 19 – seven more than last year.
The police union and Labour Party are pointing the finger for the surge in holiday deaths at cutbacks to dedicated road police, and say it shows more cops are needed on the roads.
Recruiting police from abroad, including the USA, and enticing ex-cops back are options being touted as ways to hire more officers.
The grim summer followed a grim winter, when the Queen's Birthday weekend road toll was the highest in 27 years.
The provisional toll for last year was 327, up from 319 in 2015.
Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff said policing was just one aspect of road safety.
"The driver and the decisions they make are also an important part of the picture."
Police were "extremely disappointed" with the holiday road toll.
"While these crashes are all under investigation and it is too early to speculate on causes, I can say with some confidence that they were all avoidable."
Almost a quarter of fatal crashes involved drivers travelling too fast for the conditions.
Drugs and alcohol use, drivers and passengers not wearing seatbelts were also major causes.
But Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash said redeployment of road police to other areas was to blame.
The redeployments were supposed to let police focus on "other prevention activities," new police minister Paula Bennett told Nash last month.
He labelled that deplorable, because visible police positively changed driver behaviour on the roads.
Fifty dedicated road police had been re-assigned already, and 61 more would go by March, Police Association president Chris Cahill said.
"The fact they have to move 111 staff out of the area shows how stretched they must be in other areas," Cahill said.
"The road toll is a pretty horrific way to measure it. We can't keep stretching the numbers without having some consequences."
National pledged to hire more police but the "proof's in the pudding."
Nash said Labour would bring 1000 new constabulary and 300 non-sworn staff on board by increasing police college numbers, recruiting ex-cops, and looking overseas.
Australia, Canada and the UK were obvious choices but there was no reason to exclude the USA, he said, where most cops were "good law-abiding citizens."
One former policeman with nearly 25 years' experience said recruiting those who'd left the force was an idea with some merit.
Miles Horsnell worked in many roles and assignments, including Operation 8.
As a district shift supervisor, he was responsible for a "couple of hundred" of people.
He "loved the job" but after more than 24 years, had plenty of interesting experiences, and internal politics was getting tiresome.
It would be tough enticing those with more than 20 years' experience back, Horsnell, said but police who resigned after 7-14 years would be worth approaching.
Older police would have to overcome suspicions about allowing ex-cops back into the fold.
Another former senior policeman had exciting times and was deployed abroad but police "internal politics" eventually irked him too.
He said 1000 new cops would make an impact, but asked where willing people able to meet physical and ethical standards would be found.
He said the US policing environment was too different for American cops to make the transition easily, but British and Australians were viable.
Kaye Ryan, police deputy chief executive, said ex-constabulary staff who left police more than five years ago usually had to go through the standard recruitment process.
Those out for 1-5 years usually re-entered as constables, Ryan said.
Those gone less than one year could rejoin at previous rank, at their police district's discretion.
Bennett has been approached for comment.