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I have spent the past month attending committee annual meetings throughout Aotearoa. These are extremely important components of the association’s operation giving me insight into the great work members are doing, but also your frustrations in relation to delivering policing to New Zealanders.

Your roles – constabulary and Police employees – and how you perform them are, unfortunately, once again fodder for election politics and I appreciate that is not easy when you can’t answer back.

The most common theme emanating from our meetings has been frustration at unclear priorities and lack of staff hampering the delivery of service you believe New Zealanders deserve. This was consistent across most work groups, be they frontline PST, road policing, CIB or the myriad Police employees who keep Police functioning.

It seemed that for every positive example of outstanding work, there was a corresponding story of exasperation and a feeling Police has lost its way and that priorities are not clear.

This was often manifested in concern about a growing disconnect between Police National Headquarters and districts – highlighted by constant demands coming from PNHQ that seem out of touch with the pressures districts already face.

The message I was getting was that members do not feel policing priorities are well communicated or well resourced.

It is more than 12 years since Prevention First was introduced as a national operating model. This round of committee meetings, more than any I have been through, has questioned whether the executive actually understands the 2023 policing environment, compared with what it was in 2011 when Prevention First was launched.

How timely that, as I was writing this, I received a copy of the refreshed Prevention First strategy, which included clarification of how key roles link into it.

I don’t believe it has ever been clear as to how the core policing roles of response and investigations fit in with the strategy, particularly as new, specifically designated prevention groups were established and seemed to commandeer resources.

If this refresh clarifies the reality that timely arrests and investigations aid prevention, it will be a marked improvement. Its success will also require smart distribution of staffing resources across the districts.

Understanding staffing in Police is complicated by ever-changing job and work group titles and increasing numbers of district-based roles that report to PNHQ.

In short, a refresh of a strategy will only work if it accompanies the right staff in the right places.

Annual meeting feedback disputes that, currently, this is the case.

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