9 Sep 2008

Ban on police officers on councils seen as unfair

9:55 am on 9 September 2008

Local Government New Zealand says a law change barring serving police officers from standing in local council elections makes no sense.

The Government's Policing Bill was passed by Parliament last Friday.

Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule describes it as a crazy change that was made for political rather than practical reasons.

He says bylaws that affect police account for less than 0.5% of council business.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor says it's fundamentally unfair and a move in the wrong direction.

However, New Zealand First MP, Ron Mark, chairs Parliament's Law and Order Select Committee, says there's a fundamental conflict of interest between policing and governance roles. and was one who pushed heavily for the change.

Mr Mark says he has received a number of complaints over the past five years about the conduct of police in elected local roles.

Conflict of interest

AUT university public policy director David Wilson says the conflict of interest is undeniable.

Dr Wilson says there's no reason to treat police differently from anyone else.

The Minister of Police says there are only five officers currently serving on councils so the issue is not significant.

Police headquarters says officers won't be completely excluded from local government under the change.

Superintendent Hamish McCardle says it does not stop officers from standing for community boards.

He says there are at least six officers on community boards and they can continue to serve in this role.