Scrimping may 'run force down'
Canterbury police have been told to save $2.36 million and the Police Association fears a nationwide tightening of budgets will lead to a "run-down" force.
Police headquarters said in May it needed to save 3 per cent on its operating costs and 4 per cent on non-sworn personnel costs. All police districts were asked to save 5 per cent last year but the requirement was postponed in Canterbury because of the region's earthquakes.
Canterbury police are now being asked to make up both sets of savings. Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles said police management had been "upfront" with staff about the financial constraints.
Canterbury police needed to save $2.36m out of its total budget of about $100m, he said.
Changes included reducing spending on testing of DNA samples, cutting about five vehicles from Canterbury's fleet of about 400, reducing the district's training budget and asking staff to take their normal year's leave entitlement plus an extra two days, to help reduce outstanding leave balances.
"It's also important for our staff to take their holidays, especially as post-earthquake pressures are continuing for many people," Knowles said.
Police Association president Greg O'Connor said each district was able to choose where to make cuts. "They've just got to make the cuts".
However, the force was "extremely lean anyway" and the association was concerned about what else would be cut.
"It's hard to see how the same level of service will be kept," he said.
"Every aspect of policing has been looked at many times and any fat in the police budget has been stripped."
O'Connor said police officers had played their part by accepting a "modest" pay increase last week.
The three-year deal comprised no increase for the first year, followed by a 1 per cent increase for years two and three.
"What we're really worried about is that police have made pretty good gains in recent years - cuts in crime, the road toll.
"They've been hard work these gains. I would hate to see them lost," O'Connor said.
New Zealand needed to look back only 10 years to see what kind of damage drastic budget cuts could have, he said.
"[It was] exactly the same thing - budgets were cut, vehicles weren't replaced. We ended up with a very run-down police."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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