Police discontent dismissed

Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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OPINION: Some Hamilton community leaders have expressed concerns about the redeployment of police officers dedicated to their areas.

Western Community Centre manager Neil Tolan, for example, said the well-regarded local constable was being moved, along with the suburb's community development advisers. But the movement of community constables (or prevention officers) is part of a strategy designed to increase the availability and visibility of police in the community, the public is assured by Hamilton City area prevention manager, Inspector Marcus Lynam. Maybe. Even so, tightened police budgets seem to be a factor. Core annual funding for the NZ Police was maintained at $1.4 billion in this year's Budget. Previous Budgets typically have increased it (at least in nominal terms).

Police Minister Anne Tolley's glib explanation for reducing the appropriation in real terms is that the police have delivered fantastic results. She is confident further gains will be made as the police work smarter.

But some police are smarting at this approach and - as we reported last month - are complaining that years of budget freezes have driven down morale. Rural policing has become more risky, too, as the numbers of on-call officers are reduced.

Two on-call officers covering Matamata and Morrinsville were being cut to one, for example. Waikato's Police District Commander, Superintendent Bruce Bird, was aware of "some teething problems" as the district moves to "a new operating model". Systems were being evaluated and reviews of demand were constantly undertaken, he said.

But the NZ Police Workplace Survey 2014 - we reported yesterday - shows only 44 per cent of the Waikato region's police agree the department has a clear vision of where it's going and how it's going to get there. This has fallen significantly from last year and is well below the national average.

Tolley counters that the district has "produced fantastic results" in cutting crime while undergoing change and insists the police are better-resourced than ever before. When grilled by Labour MPs at a select committee hearing two years ago, however, she could not - or would not - distinguish between nominal figures and the financial realities when rising costs were taken into account.

Her grasp of discontent in the ranks seems just as feeble.

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- Waikato Times

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