NZ Needs Police Reform

[Imported from Whale Oil Beef Hooked on Blogger]

NZ Herald has two stories running today highlighting some of the problems with the NZ Police not investigating crimes. The first is a story of credit card theft worth $2500, and the second about a car being broken into and a handbag stolen.

Both stories talk of crimes where police have been too busy to investigate, for staffing reasons. The second story is based in Counties Manukau where I have previously blogged about that district being 160 officers short of the national average.

It is time for the whole NZ Police structure to be reformed to take on a new look. What I would propose is for local area police resources to administered at a much more local level. Broadly, the reason for this is because not every police district is the same, and individual areas have different needs to others. Each has its individual quirks and local issues.

Nowadays, local authorities are becoming involved in many more social issues than before. Whether or not that is a good thing is debatable, but ultimately they are basically forced to do so under current legislation. Many local authorities are attempting to take action against crime and disorder in their cities, but without the ability to employ their own policing force, they have few tools to attack the issues their city or district faces.

Whilst local authorities do work together with local police management, the police are still ultimately under the control of the police minister and commissioner. At the moment, their combined record is clearly looking pretty shabby. One could draw the conclusion from much of the crime and policing statistics that current police structure is too big for them to handle.

A transition of police management from national control to local would be a huge move and would have to be done in combination with other necessary local government reforms. The two most important issues that would need tackling first would be the size and number of local authorities in New Zealand, and the way local authorities are funded.

Already the current police districts represent a much better division of regions within the country that local government could follow. I could quite happily live with only 11 councils within NZ, give or take a few. I would be hesitant to hand policing over to regional councils at the moment because I believe they are far too out of touch with reality, and I often wonder what their real purpose is.

Local authority funding needs huge change as well and we need a local government minister with vision and inspiration very soon. Taxing based on property values is antiquated and hugely unfair, and if local authorities were to take over policing, without any funding changes, they would need big cash injections from central government. We might need to talk to Maggie Thatcher about this one.

No doubt, some local authorities might initially struggle with the additional responsibility of policing, but parliament would have to legislate as well to impose a minimum police per capita ratio. I would assume however, that a lot of councils who are already trying to seriously tackle law and order in their cities would be more than willing to increase their police capacity to meet community needs. Auckland and Manukau, as two examples that come to mind, have establish Community Safety and Law and Order committees. Unfortunately they are just talk-fests though because there are no tools to implement crime solutions.

I imagine there will be some people who would be shocked at the thought of local authorities taking responsibilities for policing, but I’m sure it could work. Bigger Councils would eliminate the need to time consuming, parochial and bitchy regional cooperation that now exists. As long as appropriate funding means, and minimum standards were set in place, local authorities certainly could do no worse than the current police administration.

If there is any chance that the changes outlines above could improve the policing problems we currently face in New Zealand, then its well worth a thought. It would require a total change in thought processes and there would be risks involved, but you never know – it could just work.

 


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