October 6, 2008

Honesty in Police Resourcing Sought


It's nearly as certain as death and taxes - law and order, being a top-tier election issue. With Christchurch experiencing a mini crimewave this week, and violent crime continuing to surge, law and order is a perennial concern. One of NZ First's key election planks in 2005 was to increase frontline police numbers by 1000.

Labour embraced the pledge, and supposedly the Government is on track to honour it. But have you noticed any visible increase in our blue line?

I've been liaising with the head of the Police Association in Canterbury, and before politicians make anymore glib promises about boosting bobbies on the beat, perhaps it is time for some honesty about the term "frontline". Canterbury's association director, Craig Prior, believes the term needs to be "response staff". These are the true frontline cops who have to be ready and available to respond to anything, from smashed letterboxes to smashed partners through to home invasions and armed robberies. He argues that the vast majority of extra cops have been ring-fenced for special projects, and response-staff numbers in Canterbury remain static. Many of the extra recruits have been poured into strategic traffic units and community policing. These police sections do not have the capacity to rapidly respond to general crime incidents - and don't.

Prior believes response-group staff numbers in Christchurch are no stronger now than a decade ago. That is abysmal. It's time for some truth in resourcing.

Trials of travel

Overseas travel should be eye- opening, mind-expanding and thrilling. But its glossy-brochure veneer can soon be ripped to shreds. My home-bound journey from Bangkok was a melange of tragedy, comedy and farce. As the aircraft taxied to the runway, an hysterical Indian lass threw a hissy fit and ordered the jet to stop. She had decided that she was sitting in an unlucky seat and wanted out. (An Emirates flight attendant said that this happens every week. Perhaps such idiots should be fined for the havoc they wreak.)

The protracted process of off- loading her, and her baggage, threw the flight 90 minutes behind schedule. Touching down in Sydney, scores of passengers missed their connecting flights, and were understandably livid.

I flew on to Auckland with just 25 minutes to clear customs and make a dash for the domestic terminal.

With seconds to spare before check-in closed, I got to the Qantas counter, only to find that the problem-plagued airline's flight to Christchurch was delayed by two hours. Argh!

And to top it off, on landing in Christchurch, the airport's Parking Pal (your mate and mine), gobbled up my card. It's good to be home.

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