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President's Column: Feet first into the unknown

For the past week, New Zealand has been in lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – a national and international emergency risking our health and our economy in a manner unlike any other crisis of modern times.

The decision to shut down the country is to be applauded. I have been in regular contact with our fellow police associations in other parts of the world and it is clear to me that our government has acted more decisively than most and we should all benefit from that.

As is the case with crises, police are at the forefront of the response. The association is working relentlessly to ensure officers and Police employees are provided with what they need to keep them safe while they do their job of keeping New Zealanders safe.

Police staff do not have the option of being able to completely isolate themselves when they are responding to the thousands of daily requests for service.

Very often they are dealing with people who risk the lives of others by ignoring the lockdown and the other etiquettes such as social distancing. Police also face the most difficult task of responding to the deaths that will inevitably occur as the virus spreads before we manage to break the chain of infection.

We are in the loop on response consultation with Police and can clearly see the need for that response to evolve as quickly as does the pandemic’s reach.

Our key message to Police is that regular, clear and concise communication to staff is a vital tool as staff need to know at all times what the situation is with their personal protection equipment, how they should respond to various deployments, and the optimum ways for them to protect themselves and their families.

Like other countries and other police services, we are in uncharted waters. We do not have the luxury of a blueprint to be guided by.

If anything, when we assess what is happening around the world, we see a variety of responses and, in many cases, a failure to adequately protect police staff.

Previous experience with anything of this magnitude tells us we will surely look back and find many things that could have been done differently or better. However, I remain confident that Police is doing the best possible job to meet both the demands of our communities and the safety and welfare of our members.

A key role for police officers is also to reassure the public. This is crucial to not only how we survive the immediate threat, but also how we recover as a nation.

Our members are already visible in our communities as they keep watch to ensure everyone abides by the rules that are in place with the sole purpose of saving lives.

As with all businesses in New Zealand, the Police Welfare Fund will be adversely impacted by the effects of New Zealand’s health-focused and economic responses. I can assure you that the Police Association’s management and board are responding quickly, and as innovatively as possible, to threats as they are identified and quantified.

Although we will take a significant hit to our revenue, we will still have a strong, robust and sustainable Welfare Fund.

Equally, I have been assured by the chairman of the Police Credit Union that it is well situated to respond to the significant upheaval in the financial markets and, most importantly for us, members’ deposits are secure.

The association and Welfare Fund have made great progress with their business continuity plans in the past 12 months, and we continue to operate and meet the needs of our members where possible. Please review our website for updates on issues affecting members.

In these difficult times, I ask you to support each other. Remember that as you go out to work, your family at home may be more worried about you than usual, so keep them up to date with the advice you are receiving from Police. Families need to be confident your welfare is being looked after.

Stay strong and stay safe. New Zealanders are in this together and will come through it together.

Kia kaha

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