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NZPA president Chris Cahill

Our 2022 annual conference, under the banner of Policing: Future Challenges, left delegates with no illusions about the enormity of what lies ahead for policing, how closely what we do is intertwined with our whole society and how responsibilities need to be shared.

It was a theme running through all presentations – from the Commissioner to delegates reporting on the issues of their areas: police are facing an ever-increasing demand for services from sophisticated hi-tech to a “cops-on-the-beat” presence many consider core policing. As one community group suffering from multiple ram raids recently implored, “we just need police to do their job”. It is not an unfair expectation, but if it was only that simple.

The conference theme was truly timely because of the convergence of societal pressures that are particularly acute post-Covid (whatever that truly means). We are clearly in for some difficult economic times as a country with interest rates rising and home ownership forever out of reach for a large cohort of Kiwis, and the threat of unemployment looms as a consequence of tackling inflation.

These are key risks to our social cohesion. History tells us that the companion of rising unemployment is rising crime – both fuelled by the impact of long-term motel emergency housing on families and across communities. It is no big secret that families constantly moving from rental to rental or through the emergency motel system lose their sense of community and the links their children have to school.

Police are intrinsically involved in this social side of the challenges ledger, but we also have specific policing concerns: recruiting the right people and retaining them to offset a growing attrition rate, budget pressures and massive hikes in
calls for service.

Our overseas guests confirmed recruitment is problematic everywhere. New Zealand is doing pretty well, and the diversity among recruits is gradually reflecting what our community looks like. In other parts of the world that is not the case. While I joked with our Australian representatives that they had better not be here to poach, I meant it! They are having their own interstate plundering problems and we can’t let that include Aotearoa.

Our budgets are already being tested by the variety and intricacy of crime, such as cybercrime. It relies on perpetrators being free to ignore the national borders of their victims, which makes successful policing – and a positive outcome for victims – increasingly impossible. It is reported in Britain that cybercrime now accounts for half of all crime, but just 1 per cent is investigated.

New Zealanders need to understand that Police will not be capable of responding to most of these crimes. There will be an increasing onus on the public to protect themselves from the risks in the first place.

In the areas of family violence and mental health calls for service, I made it clear in my opening speech that all government departments connected with these spheres must step up. The minister took note, and we will continue to push for cross-departmental responsibility.

On a separate note, I wish to acknowledge the 11 years that Ellen Brook has dedicated to producing our flagship magazine. This is her last edition of Police News and I thank her immensely for the professionalism, understanding and energy she has put in to ensuring members are well informed and policing issues are presented to the public from a police perspective. Job well done!

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