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As you read this month’s Police News, the election will be just days away.

I’ve never been swayed by pre-election polling, so I’ll keep my predictions to myself, vote and wait to see what outcome we as a country prefer. This is very much the approach the association takes to politics – doggedly sticking to our “policies not parties” mantra, which has served us well and I am confident it will continue to do so.

From time to time, there has been comment about my predecessor becoming a Labour MP when he left the association. This surprised many of us who thought he was a bit more right of centre, but it just shows he played a straight bat when dealing with politicians (for the record, politics is not a path I will be following).

Policing has been very much to the fore in the 2023 election campaign, and not always in a positive way. Apparently, we’re doing too little, we’re not visible enough and we are somehow responsible for people breaching bail or not being sentenced for long enough. On and on it goes, feeding a campaign bloated with promises on the “law and order” spectrum. Just how many of them will come to fruition depends on how truly workable they are, and which party or combination of parties Kiwis elect.

There’s no doubt the political rhetoric is in response to, and arguably also driving, public dismay over highly visible and increasingly violent crime across the motu, together with changes occurring in many neighbourhoods.

The Ipsos NZ Issues Monitor for September had “crime/law and order” as the second biggest issue facing Aotearoa, just behind “inflation/cost of living”. While concern over crime has been higher (40% in the previous Ipsos survey), the recent 36% still indicates serious apprehension about it.

Members pay attention to the election campaign “solutions”, but they know policing well enough to evaluate what’s practical, what’s innovative and worth a try, and what is merely populist electioneering.

We know crime does not exist in a vacuum. It has many drivers leading to the demand pressures and dangerous environment members now work in. For example, poverty, while not an excuse for crime, can’t be ignored, especially when it means “home” is a crowded motel room in an unfamiliar community with no connection to a stable education for many children. That poverty cycle continues as people are locked out of choices.

The NZ Herald recently reported children as young as 12 looking for work because they are not in school, raising the question, “What’s that 12-year-old going to look like when they are 16”. While it’s illegal to employ someone under 16 during school hours, that doesn’t seem to be a barrier to the record increases in kids being “un-enrolled”.

We do need to remember that all is not doom and gloom. There are many great things happening in Aotearoa, but it is obvious there is also much that needs fixing.

Now we get to decide who we trust most to get the job done. But remember, if you can’t be bothered voting, you can’t complain about the result.

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