9 Aug 2016

Govt 'working through figures' for police boost

7:46 pm on 9 August 2016

The government is considering boosting police numbers to keep up with the growing population.

Close up of the back of a police officer wearing a vest.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has said a pre-election bottom line for his party would be a significant increase in police numbers, equalling between 1000 and 2000 over the next five years.

Mr Peters said New Zealand was lagging behind Australia in the number of police per capita, and should catch up with that country.

Prime Minister John Key said the government was considering some kind of increase.

"We're not ruling out that there will be more police but it won't be because Winston Peters wants them. It's because it's appropriate as our population grows, there'll likely be an increase in the constabulary forces that we have," he said.

05072016 Photo: Rebekah Parsons-King. Caucus run. Judith Collins.

Judith Collins Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Police Minister Judith Collins told Checkpoint with John Campbell any increase in police numbers would not be made to appease Mr Peters, and it was just a coincidence the move had been announced on the same day he called for more police.

"I've been working on it for quite some time, and talking to the Prime Minister well before recess about the need to look at police resources."

She said there had been a big increase in the population over the past eight years, and there had been far more reporting of family violence issues.

Demand was driving the mood, she said - and the government was "working through the figures" of how much it would cost, but she was committed to getting police all of the resources that they need.

"The police know exactly what they need and I'm not going to talk about specifics about things. But I'm certainly talking to the Prime Minister and my colleagues about more resourcing for police, as needed.

"They're the 24/7 agency for anything that goes really wrong and consequently demand does actually mean that we always have to look at their resources."

Mrs Collins said the government's pledge was to have one officer for every 500 New Zealanders, and population increases meant that ratio was now 1 to 526.

The Police Association said the government recognising more officers were needed would be a great relief to hard-pressed staff on the front line.

President Greg O'Connor said it would take some time to get more officers on the street, but the widespread acknowledgement by politicians of a shortage meant that now a solution can be worked on.

He said new structures, practices and technology had increased efficiency.

"These changes have mitigated to a certain extent the falling police to population ratios, but the time has now come to address the shortages."