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President's Column: Giving your best in tough times

This time last year my column was titled, “Ready for what lies ahead”, and my message for 2021 was one of confidence in our professional, diverse and talented membership to meet whatever lay ahead.

That confidence was well placed because throughout this past year you have shown remarkable agility in responding to an extraordinary list of new challenges, which I know has not been easy.

I am referring not only to the re-emergence of Covid-19, but the pressures of policing day and night in an increasingly tough environment.

It has been another year of more gangs, more firearms, more assaults on police, more policy frustrations and then the “kick in the guts” of a pay freeze, with the Government entirely missing the mark when it came to acknowledging the work and dedication of police.

You let the politicians know that this made you feel undervalued, insulted, demoralised and, for some, worried about keeping your heads above the financial waters.

The upshot of the pay freeze has been an agonisingly frustrating pay round that, unsurprisingly, ended in the stalemate arena of final offer arbitration. As this December issue of Police News goes to print, the association is compiling our case for arbitration, and though we have a December hearing, there will be no outcome until the new year.

As with last year, 2021 has been held hostage by Covid-19, but this time it’s the more dangerous Delta variant. Accordingly, I have been concerned about the health and welfare of all members, particularly those in public-facing roles – not just at MIQ and border checkpoints, but the other potentially hazardous day-to-day interactions with the public who might not be quite so happy to see you!

It seems we will never really know whose bright idea it was to exclude police from the priority vaccination rollout for New Zealand’s first responders. It certainly defied logic.

The past year also brought confirmation of what so many members have experienced in terms of exposure to trauma. Garth den Heyer’s survey, which thousands of you completed, pointed to a “high prevalence” of signs of post traumatic stress injury. The results form the basis of a commitment by the association and Police to work together on identifying and preventing PTS.

Thank you for taking part in this survey and for turning out in record numbers for the association’s biennial Member Survey. Once again you have provided the association with valuable evidence for policy formulation in negotiations with Police and Government, and for interactions with media and the public.

If I were to choose a highlight from 2021 it would be the introduction of the Frontline Skills Enhancement Course as part of the Frontline Safety Improvement Programme. Any boost in training on the job is a welcome initiative and, as revealed in this month’s Police News, frontline staff are relishing the opportunity to increase their confidence to operate in the high-risk environment that is policing 2021, and no doubt 2022.

I wish you all a happy and relaxed time over the Christmas and New Year period if you are on holiday, and for those of you who will be on duty keeping us all safe, enjoy your break when it comes. You all deserve it.

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