President's column: Ready for what lies ahead
President's Column Created by NZPA
Perhaps the best way for us to wave 2020 goodbye is to hold dear the undeniable fact that those of us fortunate to live in Aotearoa have fared well in terms of the infection and death tolls the disease has wreaked globally. This is due to a combination of political commitment and community buy-in, and we now have promises of vaccines that could be ready for international rollout early to mid-2021.
We also end a year in which we have lost a treasured colleague. This Christmas will be unlike any other for the family and friends of Constable Matt Hunt, and our thoughts are with you all, wherever in the world you may be.
Policing has seen many changes throughout 2020, not the least of them the appointment of a new commissioner and a shake-up of positions within the Police heirarchy. We also have a new Minister of Police, Poto Williams, and I am looking forward to continuing with her the constructive and open relationship we have had with her predecessors.
I would suggest that Minister Williams include in her top priorities fulfilment of the commitment to add 1800 more police to our ranks. There are still 500 to go and we would like to see them early in this parliamentary term.
Having the additional officers on board will make increasingly possible any replication of initiatives such as Wellington’s Operation Mahi Ngātahi – the deployment of up to 60 extra police to high-risk areas in the capital’s CBD, focusing on preventing and responding to violence, thefts and burglaries and alcohol-fuelled incidents. This is the proactive approach that New Zealanders have been calling for from their police service. They want to see more officers out in their communities, engaged in “back to basics”, confidence-building policing, but it takes boots on the ground to deliver such capability.
No doubt the growing prevalence of stories relating to firearms incidents that now make our regular news cycles has partly fuelled this community call. An association tally of when firearms incidents make the regular news reveals that in the past five months the count stood at 132 incidents. That is close to one a day, and it is worth remembering that many incidents involved multiple firearms and several of them were presented or fired at police.
The recent shootings in Ōtara – five in two days – show some aspects of policing are not slowing down. Although they may well be intergang, we still need vigilance to keep our communities and ourselves safe.
The safety focus extends to the officers who remain integral to the Covid-19 managed isolation security detail, which looks like it will require them for many months still.
To those of you who will not be rostered off for the traditional Christmas holidays, thank you for the work you will do to keep us all safe through what is often a tough, and for some, an unnecessarily silly season. Look out for each other on the frontlines, including the roads.
Economically and healthwise, New Zealand, like other countries, will be impacted by Covid-related challenges throughout 2021. I believe strongly that the professional and humanitarian qualities inherent in our diverse and talented membership will meet whatever lies ahead in this coming year, and I hope my message to you in 12 months’ time will reflect that.
I wish you all a safe and very happy Christmas.