Claims staff cuts putting police and public at risk

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 11:07 03/04/2014

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Police officers and the public are being put at risk after cuts to staffing levels in a major Waikato town and it's symptomatic of wider cost-cutting in the department, a source says.

But Eastern Waikato Area Commander, Inspector Dana McDonald, said the assertion that staffing numbers had been cut in Morrinsville were incorrect, but rather they'd been reduced by natural attrition.

The female source, who requested anonymity, said staff had been told the number of duty constables in Morrinsville would fall from eight to six, and the overnight on-call roster had been cut from two to one.

That sole on-call officer has to cover Matamata, Te Aroha and Morrinsville, she said.

"Now they have to travel from one town to the other. It's quite a big distance, so if there's a serious job that has to be attended to within 10 minutes and to be there [at the scene] within 30 minutes, it's almost impossible to do that - it's putting public safety at risk."

The source also believed having a lone officer on duty at night was putting their safety at risk.

"The potential for them to be assaulted and for them to get in trouble increases because cops should be working two-up in the evenings for their own safety."

If something goes wrong back-up could be 30 minutes away, and "you could be well dead by that time".

The source spoke out because she believed the public "need to know the reality" about police resources.

"It's affecting the whole country, but this is the area I'm in now and they need to know that if they call the police and they're having an emergency situation, thinking someone's going to get there shortly, the reality is that the cop could be coming from 40 minutes away.

"Something needs to happen - police can't keep cutting staff."

The source blamed the region's commanders, as well as politicians for the cutbacks.

"It's the plebs on the front line are the ones that are affected, running around trying to cover each other. The resources being more and more limited."

Police need more funding to function properly, she said.

"It's so important, public safety. The police get such a bad rap from the public not getting to things on time, but they do their best with the resources they have and the pressure they're under on a daily basis."

But McDonald disputed claims of cost-cutting, saying for the past five years the Resource Allocation Total (RAT) for Morrinsville had been a sergeant and six constables, but Morrinsville had been running over this.

But over time, through natural attrition, the numbers had dropped so that Morrinsville was staffed at its approved level, he said.

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He said claims about on-call after-hours coverage was also not accurate.

A central district command centre enabled police to allocate extra staff more effectively. It allowed a more timely response compared to having a second person respond while on-call.

McDonald said the central command centre provided the public with a faster response than "calling someone [a police officer] out from home, have them wake up, get dressed, go to a station, obtain a briefing and go to an incident".

". . . for instance Cambridge on-duty staff can get to Morrinsville in a more timely manner and Hamilton can back fill Cambridge."

McDonald said Waikato police would continue to provide the best service it can to ensure people in the district's communities "feel safe and are safe".

- Waikato

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