Canty cops facing job cuts, freeze on recruits

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013

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Canterbury's police department will face job cuts over the next three years and a freeze on new recruits in order to meet stringent budget caps.

The region's policing budget was slashed by $2.2 million last year. At the same time, it was announced a "prevention-first" model was to be rolled out across the country.

While no sworn staff lost jobs under the resulting Canterbury restructure, Superintendent Gary Knowles said the region had three years to reduce staff numbers back to its pre-quake "baseline" level.

The district was currently about 18 staff over its allocation as a result of 50 additional officers being assigned to Canterbury after the February 2011 earthquake.

The attrition rate is about 1.3 officers a year.

Knowles said no new police recruits would be posted to Canterbury until the baseline was met.

"I'm a realist. We won't be getting recruits until we are down to our numbers," he said.

"We're not going around [to] march people up to the North Island and say you're now working in Auckland. As positions come vacant, we'll look at those.

"My priority is to keep the frontline going. That will mean people will go back to the frontline to help out. That's just the nature of the business."

There are currently 1008 sworn and non-sworn police working in Canterbury.

While Knowles said the restructure had "nothing to do with finances", the police union says it will result in "considerable" savings.

The model is based on a highly successful trial in Counties Manukau in 2008, involving 300 additional staff and the establishment of "proactive" teams.

In Canterbury, it was implemented using existing staff numbers.

Two areas have been established - Christchurch Area and Mid-South Canterbury Area - with four bureaus in each: investigation, response, prevention and support.

Knowles said the public would notice little difference.

"This review has resulted in the Christchurch area having a greater number of active frontline police - not fewer.

"There are more officers available to respond to reported crime, and dedicated patrol groups focusing on preventing crime and dealing proactively with issues and trends as they arise.

"The days of thinking you have cops cruising around doing nothing are over."

Of non-sworn staff, two were made redundant and nine vacant roles scrapped under a separate review last year.

Knowles said while change was "never easy", most frontline police staff felt the changes were positive.

Knowles said Canterbury came out top in the country last year in a staff satisfaction survey and he expected it to be "at the top of the pack" this year.

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- The Press

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