Wasting police time, or community relations?

New Plymouth police have been rapped over the knuckles by national headquarters for taking a hospitable approach to those asking for a breath test.

It was reported earlier this month that people often entered the station asking to be tested. Officers, if not too busy, were happy to oblige.

However, New Plymouth police have now been told their approach does not line up with national policy – and that they should stop immediately.

“While these staff have acted in good faith and with the best of intentions, there is a risk if for example someone initially passes a test, then drives and is found later to be over the limit, or is involved in a crash, which could have tragic consequences,” Central Districts Acting District Commander Inspector Mark Harrison said.

Have we now turned into the United States, where people in official capacities are stopped from assisting the public out of kindness, in case there is a mistake and it causes some liability?  

“Staff have been reminded that we do not offer such a service, which is consistent with our national policy.”

Harrison said the best advice to those out socialising was “to make the choice whether to drink or drive – not both.”

“This is the responsibility of the individual. That means if you’re out drinking, please organise a safe way to get home, or make other arrangements. Drivers also need to take care if driving home in the morning after a night out as they may still be over the limit , so should take the appropriate precautions to ensure they are okay to get home safely.”

However, this is the exact advice officers in New Plymouth had been giving to those who came in to be tested.

Sergeant Bruce Irvine said at the time that those with any level of alcohol on their breath were advised not to drive because test results could change within minutes.

“We will always say this is here and now; if in 30 minutes you go and drive it could be different,” he said. “It’s not a get-out-of-jail free card. We advise unless you’re breathing zero it’s not worth taking the risk.”

I think it’s miserable to stop it on the basis that it may not provide a legal and proven excuse if you are later caught over the limit.

I don’t know what it is with the NZ Police when it comes to roads, drinking, driving and speeding.  They have been losing the public over the last 3 to 4 months with the way they are going about things.

Keep this up, and being a traffic cop is going to be multiple degrees less pleasant.


– Taranaki Daily News


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  • steve and monique

    Or could it be a loss of revenue is the issue from the top? I don’t mean to sound cynical or seeming like i’m bagging the Police, I have the utmost respect for them and the work they do but I do wonder about the pen pushers and paper shufflers that may be looking to fill the coffers. All they see is dollars and cents not people.

    • EvoDriver

      That’s very cynical – entirely possible, but I hope that is not the reason!

  • mrmysterious

    This is a

  • Ghost

    How many people have they helped educated and informed during the period of doing this, this type of action by the local police, goes a long way at integrating and incorporating the lives, roles and jobs of your average officer into the community. Just goes to show from PHQ that they want to establish and maintain the image of Overlords.

  • sheppy

    Its all about the money – anything that potentially will reduce the fines revenue by someone actually obeying the law rather than donating to the coffers by way of a fine is to be discouraged.
    Remember the “outrage” a few days back when they breathalysed many motorists and found them just under the legal limit. The exact same motorists would have been half the limit a couple of months previously before it was dropped to the ludicrously low level it is now.

  • Just a thought …

    I wonder what would happen if they entered the Police station at 1 kph over the walking limit ? ………

    • Albert Lane

      It used to be an offence if a person was drunk in a public place. I wonder why it seems to have been written out of the law-books. I am astounded by the behaviour and language of young people that we see on the TV police shows, When I served in the Armed forces, anybody charged with an offence couldn’t plead that they were drunk at the time, as drunkenness was no excuse. So why are we putting up with such bad behaviour towards the police by drunks on our streets? If somebody back-chats a policeman or resists in any way, they should be arrested and charged. But no. From what we see, it’s common for the police take them home to sober up. That type of response is not a deterrent to bad behaviour. So why don’t we reinstate the offence of being drunk in a public place?

      • Just a thought …

        Nothing to add but “absolutely ” ……..

      • Kopua Cowboy

        Because we like to have our coppers free to prosecute those commiting actual crimes- not for having a bad attitude. Our courts are busy enough as it is.

        • Albert Lane

          It’s not a good look, and it all started when a judge dismissed a case against a person who swore at a policeman, and the judge said that the policeman should be quite used to hearing that sort of language, and therefore it couldn’t be deemed to be abusive.

          • Kopua Cowboy

            And you think a rational solution is to go around arresting people who have no manners?

          • Albert Lane

            So if you end up in court one day and tell the judge to f-off, you can expect something a little more severe than being told you are naughty. The Police are our front line against wrong-doers. If they are shown disrespect, it shows a disrespect against the law. And it should result in the person being punished. If such people don’t have good manners towards authority, it won’t take long for them to learn how to behave properly if they abuse a member of the police force.

  • cows4me

    Police especially new recruits are now taught the two most sinful laws in this state are drink driving and speeding, it’s been drilled into their heads that this is what you now exist for. The police are becoming a sub branch of the IRD and they are increasingly seen as such.

    • I.M Bach

      I doubt it will be long before they have EFTPOS machines for payment of fines. Instant fine = instant payment.

  • Plod’s Specialist Subject: Public Relations own Goals!

  • Jas

    I think the issue here would be the intention of the driver do they intend to go straight home and not drive again or do they intend to go home then out again or go to other locations.
    Becuase if you tested someone 2 minutes after their last drink and then 1 hour later the reading will be higher later.

    • Astuteas

      If you breath tested someone immediately after they had consumed alcohol, their breath test reading would be substantially higher than if you breath tested them 1 hour later.
      Their blood alcohol reading would generally possibly increase over that subsequent hour as their body processes the alcohol thru their system, but their breath reading would always record lower 1 hour later.

  • Bombastic

    More terrible Police PR revealing a zero tolerance by stealth. Whatever happened to “to protect and serve”? It seems to have morphed somehow into “to harrass and fine”.

  • Justsayn

    Maybe both… wasting Police time, and good community relations.

    Surely if the cops were keen to ensure compliance with the law, and good PR, they could help people comply. They could hire a few students, equip them with the hand held sniffer things they use for the preliminary check at the stops, and send them out to stand with bouncers and offer free screening. They might even be able to programme different levels into them so that people know is they are within say 25% of the limit (a “getting too close mate” level).

    Low cost, effective, doesn’t waste police time, great PR.

  • Davo42

    Not really a waste of Police time when the officer is sitting at the watch house waiting for walk-ups, you could argue that it’s a good use of wasted time. Where were all the cries about the wasting of police time with the famous “you must blow on the pie” viral video. Seriously folks is this the NZ we want to live in?

  • taurangaruru

    Watching RBT on the telly in Aus – girl & boyfriend get pulled over, girl gets done. Boyfriend asks to be tested so he can see whether he is safe to drive, cops refuse, boyfriend drives & cops chase him, breathalyse him & do him for being over too. Why would they not just put the bag on him when he asked? No wonder nobody likes the cops anymore, they act more like a military force than an organisation protecting the community.

    • waldopepper

      absolutely. they seem hell bent on creating a them and us division with the public rather than being part of the community. astounding.

  • Huia

    It would be interesting to know just what your personal reading was after a couple of wines, I guess with all the publicity about drinking and driving, people are interested in wanting to know how their body treats the alcohol so they go in to take the test.
    Well done to the NP Police for their patience and the PR work involved in that.
    Sounds very short sighted to me coming from the top like it has. $$$$$ missed out on perhaps.
    Would like to see the Police breath test some of these old people driving motorized scooters around Malls, they go like the clappers and who knows what drugs they are on.

  • Don O’Brien

    Police should be able to use a little initiative instead of being bound up in rigid policy. I have seen this policy vs initiative problem in other organisations, the end result is that the best employees leave and you are left with a group of staff that can’t react or respond to anything that is not in the rule book.

  • Jdogg

    I get why they don’t want to do it anymore, someone comes in, tests negative, goes and has a crash “but but but the police tester said I was fine”. And here we’ll see good people doing good things, getting raked over the coals as usual, cue investigations, police losing jobs.

    If there’s still alcohol to be processed by the liver, it could and probably would put them over over the limit.

    Nope, let people take responsibility for themselves.

    • ex-JAFA

      And this is notably different to a driver testing negative at a roadside checkpoint, and later crashing, how?

      • Jdogg

        Fair call. One process appears informal with assumedly no paper-trail, no license checks and sending a mixed message about drink driving (if you really need to ask then it seems you would know you probably shouldn’t) with no consequences and the other is about enforcement/evidence/confiscation if need be. Police are there to enforce the law whether we agree with it or not, perhaps it should be upto people like TAG, but I highly doubt anyone is going to want to take on that responsibility.

  • Nebman

    It was an opportunity for the local Taranaki coppers to undo some of the ridiculous negative PR dished out by their Bosses at Police Nation HQ. I know the local Area Commander won’t be allowed to comment simply because he’s been told it’s out of his hands.

    Bouquets for Keith Borrell and the local Taranaki coppers for doing their best and Brickbats to the muppets at Police National HQ who still don’t get that they need the public more than we need them.

  • JMC7

    The most important statement here is: “Harrison said the best advice to those out socialising was “to make the choice whether to drink or drive – not both.””

    So in fact the police think you shouldn’t drink at all if you drive. They seem to have decided that any amount of alcohol inhibits your driving (a stance which as far as I’m aware isn’t supported by scientific evidence).

    Sorry but the law says a certain amount of alcohol is in fact permissible and doesn’t require us to make the absolute choice between drinking anything at all and driving. It’s really not up to Mr Harrison to unilaterally decide otherwise. If he wants to make policy he should stand for election otherwise he’s a public servant and should act like it.

  • Astuteas

    So yet another PNHQ policy that clearly demonstrates that the NZ Police bosses are patently not genuinely interested in Road Safety and possibly preventing anyone who may be over the new limit from driving in the first place. The NZ Police would rather the motoring public of NZ magically guess as to whether they are or are not over the new lower drink driving level before they decide to drive… and then just try to catch them out and prosecute them once they are already driving a vehicle down the road, as opposed to genuinely assisting the public when they ask and thereby actually positively preventing any possible offence and/or risk to other motorist from ever occurring in the first place.
    NZ Police Traffic Safety Service… Yeah Right

  • HR

    This is how it works in the police; generally, the further up the line of command you go, the further removed from reality you become. It’s not limited to the police by the way.
    Most of the coppers on the street wouldn’t have any issue breathalysing people. It is a good way to interact with the public and can actually be a real laugh, you can have a lot of fun with people. Was having a joke with a guy one night, I said that bad breath could set the machine off. He was really quick and said “I hope not, I had pork for dinner”. Brilliant.

  • kehua

    This is easy to solve, Zero tolerence, nada , nil, zip no way can you argue the point, nor can a person plead ignorance. I refuse to ride, shoot or hunt with anyone that has been drinking.

  • Wahbonnah

    Unfortunately I am not surprised with Mark Harrison’s comments.
    I have had a number of experiences with him at work, and he is an arrogant “sod,” and he is at odds with the “real workers” on the coalface he is in charge of.
    I feel sorry for Bruce Irvine and his fellow officers in New Plymouth. The fact that their boss is not willing, or able to comment on this, for fear of breaching protocol sums up the sorry state of affairs the local police have to deal with from their top brass.
    As usual, it’s the men/women on the coalface who have to deal with the top brass’ ludicrous policy, and interpretation of laws!!!!
    Rant over.