Tensions have been running high at Police comms centres, according to Pi Ki Te Ao Committee chair Eva Finlay, who told conference delegates that some staff were considering leaving Police, or already had, over the way their career development requests were handled.
A motion from the committee, that the association investigate the level of treatment given to Police employees when they seek such opportunities within Police, was passed unanimously.
Eva said members from the North Comms who were keen to explore secondments outside their area, kept hitting brick walls.
“There are several staff being told by their supervisor to either not bother applying, because they won’t be released because of staffing issues, or finding out after an application has been submitted, regardless of whether they were successful or not, that they won’t be released.”
Comms centres were high pressure environments where the work is relentless, Eva said. For example, in the past year North Comms had answered 1,350,280 calls from the public.
The committee noted that there was an impression that staff in workgroups outside the comms centre were being provided more development opportunities and more often.
Eva’s committee believed the issue was affecting comms centres throughout the country and some staff were considering leaving because of it. Police should not risk losing experienced staff because they were not being offered professional development.
She was supported by PNHQ committee chair Martyn Napier who said the motion was also relevant to Police employees in his workplace.
“I have had several people come to me about secondments they have applied for. It’s been endorsed all the way through and then pulled at the last minute. It creates incredible disappointment and affects their faith in the organisation. We’ve had people who think, ‘What is the point in staying here?’ It is not a nice experience to go through and it needs to be addressed.”
President Chris Cahill also acknowledged the work that went into the recently formed Pi Ki Te Ao Committee’s first motion at a conference, saying it highlighted the value of a committee with a largely Police employee membership.
National Office supported the motion. “We are aware that staffing levels can be a factor behind Police’s decision to decline secondments into other workgroups. However, Police must be taking active steps to manage and address staff shortages so any adverse effects on development opportunities are temporary. National Office is happy to raise this issue with Police, and in particular the immediate issues facing North Comms staff.”
The call for double crewing of all frontline patrols is becoming a perennial issue at Police Association conferences, along with frustration from delegates that it still hasn’t been adopted as standard procedure.
For the third time in five years, delegates are urging Police to introduce double crewing, this time as part of the recently launched Tactical Response Model.
The Auckland City Committee submitted that by continuing to allow single crewing, Police is not doing everything it can to ensure the health and safety of staff, as required by law.
It also pointed to recent academic research from Britain which shows that double crewing not only increases staff safety (with a decrease in assaults), but contributes to productivity, a conclusion that was backed up by the committee.
It submitted feedback from an experienced frontline officer who has 20 years’ frontline experience, including in road policing.
“The latest response [from NZ Police] has been that single crewing provides ‘higher visibility’ and ‘higher productivity’. There is no evidence of this. I can understand why someone might think that six police cars with six officers might appear to provide higher visibility, but three cars with six officers can be just as visible and double-crewed patrols conduct more stops.”
He said two-up patrols were, in fact, more productive as a passenger could complete several NIA checks before a vehicle stop. “Checks cannot be done by a single crew as it is illegal to use the phone while driving and is very unsafe.
“I have had staff tell me that they have stopped a vehicle and then completed a NIA mobility check, only to find there is a flag stating the vehicle should only be stopped after TENR has been applied as they occupants are known firearms carriers – a bit late for that information.”
He said the practice of single crewing seemed to have been carried over from the Ministry of Transport days, where patrols were generally single. “I do recall, however, that MOT would generally double up on late and night shifts, which has not been continued by Police in traffic patrols.”
He had consistently raised the issue of double crewing with supervisors. “I’ve been told it’s okay to double crew at night. My response is that it doesn’t make any difference, day or night.”
Since then, he said, there had been a rise in attacks on police, including the murder of Constable Matt Hutt.
The Police Association has previously raised the matter with Police but failed to gain traction and recently pushed for double crewing to be a key component of the Frontline Safety Improvement Programme.
The delegates endorsed the call for a Police deployment model that requires double crewing of all frontline patrols and directed National Office to continue lobbying to have it included as part of the continuing development of the Tactical Response Model (TRM).
Under the TRM, dog teams will be double-crewed, which has been welcomed as a start to see how it works with the hope that it might flow into double-crewing for all patrols.