Before delving into the laundry list of rising demands, I want to preface my comments with an explicit expectation from the position of our members – the officers who are required to deliver, 24/7, 365 days of the year. Their expectation is basic: recognise our commitment to every New Zealander by paying us fairly and settling last year’s pay claim*.
Teachers’ and nurses’ claims were settled last year so it is galling that the demands of the only workgroup that cannot go on strike, the constabulary, have been lost in the system of delay, obfuscation, gameplaying and politics. Officers deserved to be a priority before the October election and a priority for this new coalition government.
This Government has a 100-day plan. If it expects Police to be a crucial part of implementing that plan, it must ensure officers receive their overdue recognition by way of an acceptable pay settlement within that same 100-day timeframe. The clock is ticking!
There is enormous, pent-up frustration as the weeks and months fly by with a deathly silence from politicians and Police hierarchy. All the while, officers are expected to deal with massive increases in demands.
Many of these officers are also the ones who are working out of sub-standard stations and dealing with people being held in appalling cell blocks throughout the motu, as revealed in the cover story in this Police News edition.
The public rightly has an expectation that police are key to their safety – at home, on the roads, on the streets, in bars and restaurants, at large concerts and at sporting events. That includes everything from going to bed at night without being beaten by a violent partner, being burgled or ram-raided, losing their life savings to fraudsters, being intimidated by congregations of patched gang members, or arriving safely at a destination on roads that claimed 341 lives last year.
Integral to achieving that public safety are our members. Prioritising their deployment and that of the necessary resources to ensure higher visibility and a responsive approach will be an enormous challenge but a welcome refocus.
Road deaths in Aotearoa continue to be a national tragedy, but even with the complexities of poor roads and the stupidity of those who don’t wear seat belts or ignore speed limits, there is surely sufficient evidence to justify the deterrent of a higher visibility of police on our roads. This may also assist in mitigating the concerns of rural communities, many of which feel abandoned by low police presence and reliance on electronic reporting they see little or no response to – a scenario I believe is only going to worsen as it becomes increasingly difficult to attract staff to rural New Zealand.
Not the happiest of new year columns but, with respect to the pay round vacuum, I make no apologies for highlighting the irony of the new year expectations of our members and little acknowledgment of their long-time, legitimate expectations.
* Police employees, who are also integral to community safety and crime resolution, accepted their pay claim last year.