Rebuilding New Zealand’s police force

Over the last few weeks we have seen some shocking violent offences in Auckland being perpetrated. After each there has been an interview with the victims, often minimum wage workers working long/late hours. They have been traumatized by the incident. They fear for their safety, and without doubt they wonder what will happen if the Police are not able to find the perpetrators. Nobody can blame them.

And it is not because we have a lousy force. In actual fact, we are very lucky to have the Police force that we do in New Zealand. Among its many redeeming features are that:

  • The force is comparatively free from corruption and unethical behaviour compared to their equivalent in other countries
  • They are more community oriented in that more time, and face to face interaction is spent on meeting locals, local community groups
  • As yet, they are not carrying firearms on regular patrol, though I understand that officers have access to them

However, since the 1990’s both major parties have cut back police funding. Both have forced the police to prioritize calls, leaving low level offending to sometimes drop off the radar because there are other crimes that have higher priority. The prioritizing has lead to some unfortunate decisions, that have cost lives. As budgets continue to tighten despite both parties saying they care about reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice, the only likely outcome is a progressively more restrictive regime of prioritization.

In part because of this, but also because of a slow but long term break down in societal values that seems to be in progress, brazen criminal offending such as the petrol station ram raid and other violent attacks on stores afflicting Auckland is on the increase. It has been shown to criminals that they can offend and have a high probability of getting away with it in terms of being caught. And unfortunately this sad fact is catching on.

Perhaps also, there is an element of political correctness slipping into the system. I am certainly not saying that New Zealand should revert back to capital punishment. Nor am I saying that that the rights for prisoners should be revoked, as there is undeniably strong case law for just that. But the idea that judges should worry about whether a person could have their employment prospects impacted by a sentence for child abuse or fraud has no credibility with me at all.

When Police take a case with overwhelming evidence to court that they have elected to pursue this far, how demoralizing it must be for them to see it get a watered down sentence. But what bothers me here is the number of cases they actually have the time and the resources to take to court in the first place. A victim of sexual violence has virtually zero prospect of seeing their attacker get put away, and sometimes the Police do not take their case seriously – is that because of poor attitudes or because they are not properly trained or funded? I do not know the answer, except that whatever the case it is not a nice one.

Sadly I do not fancy the prospects of the perpetrators of the recent violent offences including the attack on the dairy, the recent petrol station ram raid, among others being brought to court. Will it be because the police were not able to get someone into the case fast enough; because they could not spare a dog handler and his/her canine to find them? Pass.

But there is one thing we can and should do: rebuild the Police force.

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