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The recent delayed release of the 2022 Police Culture survey has generated much conversation from members and media, particularly because of a sense the troubling results were being kept from them.

Rather than front-footing the truly poor results found in some districts and how they compared with others, Police chose to concentrate instead on the major themes identified across the survey. This approach goes to the heart of how the whole organisation is faring.

The survey did show that the previous two years under Covid had been extremely difficult for Police staff. Many groups had to meet the extra demands and challenging response to the pandemic, unlike the reality for many other government sectors where there was reduced demand for their services.

Overall, however, there is no getting away from the fact that the culture survey results were disappointing with all measures showing relevant declines.

Police focused on four key areas identified in the survey results: managing frontline demand, investing in development, valuing “our people”, and engaging with “our people”. It would be a positive move if Police communicated with its staff on that response, particularly what has changed since – hopefully for the better.

The never-ending demand on the frontline is the single issue I am challenged on by members and the public. Their comments are eerily similar. Police staff want to know why, with just on 1800 extra officers, they feel there is no relief on the frontline, particularly in the provinces. The public want to know why they don’t see police officers on the street.

That these pretty simple questions are now constant goes to the heart of what members and the public are feeling. For the former, they are exhausted; for the public, my best guess is they are increasingly aware of highly visible crime that feels way too close for comfort.

If you drill down, there are some answers. Since the 1800-extra-officers policy was announced, growth in demand has swamped any meaningful increase in capacity. That is one reason to welcome Budget 2023 kicking off funding for a recruitment policy that keeps a police-topopulation ratio of 1:480. When you look at the intensity of recruitment required to fulfil that promise over the coming years, the Police College is going to be very busy. I am assured they can do it, so bring it on.

Looking at the public response to the in-your-face crime, it is important to emphasise that police are out there in the streets every day doing some amazing work.

Unfortunately, it can be erased from memory by a single high-profile incident such as the brazen and vicious attack on a person one late May afternoon on one of Auckland’s busiest streets. An onlooker filmed the entire hideous assault as well as the absence of any police to intervene. It went viral and police wore the criticism.

Perhaps what we are witnessing is the need for a review, and possibly a refocus, on aspects of the 12-year-old “Prevention First” strategy.

I have little doubt that trust and confidence in Police has dipped, and that is affecting the morale of our members who feel unable to deliver the policing service that communities want and deserve.

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