Election 2014

21 Oct 2008

NZ First says National's boost to police really a cut

11:57 am on 21 October 2008

New Zealand First says the National Party's policy on police is shortsighted and represents a cut in police numbers

National says it wants to see one officer for every 500 people. The current ratio is one to 520.

But New Zealand First's law and order spokesperson Ron Mark says it already has an agreement with the government to boost police levels to match those in Australia.

"The figure that we are working on is one to 480. National's statement actually represents a cut in the staffing levels that have been planned for already," Mr Mark says.

National says it would put 220 more police officers on the street than Labour, and a significant number of those would be sent to South Auckland.

Party leader John Key says he wants to see more police officers out on the street, as the current numbers are being stretched too thin.

Mr Key says National would look to boost the number by ensuring the remainder of the extra 1,000 police staff being recruited under Labour would only be frontline staff. He says only 210 of those recruits have so far been posted to frontline duties.

And Mr Key says the party would recruit an extra 220 on Labour's numbers by 2011, with many of those officers going to the Counties Manukau District.

"In our opinion, this will be of substantial benefit to the citizens of New Zealand, particularly to those that live in South Auckland, who we've seen in recent times are very concerned about law and order issues.

"We are not going to sit back in a situation where there have been seven murders in 15 weeks in South Auckland."

Mr Key says not only would the boost result in more people being arrested for criminal activity, but more police on the street would provide a visible deterrent.

He says the policy would cost an additional $18.5 million each year.

The Labour Party says National is trying to hoodwink the public with its promise of more frontline police.

Labour's spokesperson on police issues, Annette King, says National is using misleading information, with its definition of frontline policing excluding all officers except those in patrol cars.

She says that excludes those working in areas such as homicide, organised crime and community work.

Ms King also says family violence, not street crime, is mostly behind an increase in violent offences.

Manukau mayor approves

Manukau City mayor Len Brown says the National Party's promise to put extra police into South Auckland will help Counties Manukau get on top of its drugs problem.

National says it will commit 300 new police officers to frontline roles by the end of 2010.

Len Brown says the Counties Manukau community has a shortfall of about 160 police officers.

He says 300 extra frontline police is a marvellous committment and one they have been seeking for some time.

Mr Brown says those numbers will enable them to make more officers visible on the streets and have a designated team to help rid the community of the P-labs and drug houses.

But Police Association has concerns

However, Police Association president Greg O'Connor says National's plans to increase frontline officers in South Auckland may result in other parts of the country losing staff.

Mr O'Connor says the association supports putting more police on the frontline, but National's plan does not seem to involve enough new recruits.

He says it would be wrong if areas such as Christchurch lose officers to reinforce South Auckland's ranks.