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Superintendent Warwick Morehu says he’s faced a steep learning curve since stepping into the top job at the Police College.

Former Taupō area commander Warwick Morehu was appointed Royal New Zealand Police College director of training in February 2022 as the tail of Covid was still wagging and Operation Convoy was about to come to a head.

His appointment also came hot on the heels of an independent review into the college commissioned by Deputy Commissioner Tania Kura. She told Stuff last April that it found “lots of things” that needed work, including the college’s academic framework, the type of training staff it employs and its connections to real-world policing.

A second review to examine the entire training process got under way not long after Warwick started, and was due to be completed late last year – the findings have not been made public.

Warwick (Te Arawa, Ngāti Tahu, Ngāti Whaoa) values continual improvement: “We should always review because the environment changes so much. We need to make sure we're teaching something that's fit for purpose.”

In an effort to achieve that, feedback on training was sought from the districts last year. “That’s with us now and we're just having a good look at everything... We are hoping to see something different by early next year. That's all up to the executive leadership team and the commissioner.”

New kids on the block

Hundreds of new officers have graduated from the college in the time the reviews have been under way: “That's been pretty hectic on RNZPC since [the target of 1800 new constabulary staff] was set,” Warwick says. “I think in the past, initial training has been [nearly] 30% of the normal business here and the rest has been senior courses. Well, that all got flipped on its head [to achieve the target].”

That pace is not likely to slow down after the Labour Government allocated an initial $50.8 million in Budget 2023 as part of its pledge to ensure a ratio of one officer to every 480 New Zealanders is maintained. That means, based on Stats NZ population projections and assuming a 5% attrition rate in sworn staff, Police would need to train another 1525 recruits over the next five years.

So, the pressure remains on Warwick’s team to action any findings from the many reviews while still churning out a high volume of battle-ready bobbies. Adding to this are concerns raised in the past that some recruits arrive in the districts unprepared for the realities of the job. Warwick takes exception to that, saying he gets very little negative feedback.

“We might hear about some of our recruits maybe just feeling a lack of confidence [but] I challenge the organisation and the districts on that to ask themselves how they are actually supporting and helping those recruits when they come out of here.

“Nobody walks out that gate to fail… This is only part of the training here. Their training has to continue. That next two years is probably the most important of their careers… We rely on the system that's out in districts to continue to support those constables when they get to district.”

Three's (good) company

Warwick says his team always has the organisation’s best interests at heart and when there are hard calls to make, he has “two friends I can lean on” – academic director Dr Nessa Lynch and director of leadership and development Superintendent Andrew Mortimore.

The three-director model “is quite different to what it's been in the past”, he says. We work quite collaboratively together. And we have to. If the college is going to succeed and training is going to succeed for Police, we have to make that model work. And, so far, we're doing OK, it’s working well.

“I've got really good leaders and we're all aligned around trying to make the experience the best that it can be, not just for the recruit, but for the family. And that's part of our work going forward in terms of the whole cultural uplift of RNZPC.

“That's the key thing, we've got to be able to take everybody with us. Easier said than done at times. But that’s the challenge of a leader.”

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