Extra police officers and resources start to show

Hawke’s Bay Today, Hawke’s Bay by STUART NASH 22 Jun 2018

TALKING POINT

More female graduates and a restorative justice initiative reveal new face of policing

The changed face of policing is becoming increasingly apparent in our communities as extra resources and support begin to take effect.

I am now attending the Royal New Zealand Police College for a graduation parade of new recruits every four weeks. There have been seven graduation parades since I was sworn in as Police Minister, and 455 new constables have been deployed around the country.

Next week I will attend a truly historic graduation. For the first time in New Zealand policing history, the number of female recruits will outnumber the number of male recruits who are graduating. The 80 new constables of Wing 315 have been working with former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley as their Patron and mentor, and I am grateful for her support for the new government’s important initiative.

Next week the Eastern Police District also reaches an important policing milestone. For the first time in Hawke’s Bay, a restorative justice initiative known as the iwi/ community panels, or Te Pae Oranga, will be available to help deal with offenders at the lower end of the scale.

The Hastings panel will be the tenth of its kind in New Zealand. It has real potential to reduce reoffending and victimisation in Hawke’s Bay, as well as keeping young people off the pathway of crime that leads to prison. At around $100,000 per year per inmate, we can’t keep building American-style mega prisons every few years as the main feature of our justice policy.

The iwi/community panels are not a soft option. Police have to agree to refer an offender to the panel for a hearing. The offences are at the lower end of the scale, often involving careless driving or shoplifting, wilful damage or public disorder.

The offender must admit guilt and be held to account for what they have done.

Members of the panel, respected community figures, encourage the offender to deal with the issues that led to the crime and work on a plan to stop it happening again. The offender has to make good for the harm they have caused.

That might involve an apology to the victim, financial reparation, or some form of community service.

Early research shows reoffending rates by those who have gone through a panel hearing is around 12 per cent lower than other justice processes. They are particularly effective in reducing offending by young Maori between 17 and 24. We know they aren’t the whole answer, and that they won’t work for everybody. But we are bringing a fresh set of eyes to the challenges of our justice system.

My priority as Police Minister is to ensure Police are fully resourced to help keep our communities safe.

That is why the first Budget delivered by our government devoted an extra $300 million to policing as the first step. There will be more in future budgets. We are well on the way to meeting our plan for 1800 extra police officers and 485 Police support staff.

There will be an increased police presence in our neighbourhoods, and they are working hard on crime prevention. Police are now in a great position to make real progress.

Stuart Nash is the Labour Member of Parliament for Napier.

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