Bill English promises extra 1125 police staff
Prime Minister Bill English has made his opening gambit in the election campaign - announcing an extra 1125 police staff.
Mr English used his State of the Nation speech in Auckland on Thursday to announce the policy, which will include 880 sworn police officers on the country's streets over the next four years.
He says the focus is to reduce crime and re-offending.
"New Zealand is the fourth-safest country in the world, but demand for traditional police services is growing, and complex and serious crime is absorbing more police time," he says.
Half a billion dollars will be spent over the next four years bolstering the number of sworn police officers by an extra 880, with an additional 245 staff.
The package also includes:
- a new national 24/7 phone number for non-emergencies,
- around-the-clock capability for the police eagle helicopter,
- a boost to staffing numbers in rural areas.
The increase in rural and regional police numbers would mean 95 percent of the population lives within 25km of a 24/7 police presence.
He says police numbers will increase from the current 11,925 to 13,000 by 2021, and is promising the first new recruits from the package will be on the streets by November this year.
All 12 police districts will see an increase in staff; 500 of the 880 frontline officers will be on the beat and also into community policing.
Chee Phuo, whose mother who was brutally dragged from her car and bashed in Auckland, is celebrating the Government's plan.
Nancy Voon, 65, was attacked late last year in the carpark of the Panmure YMCA whilst waiting for her son.
Chee Phuo says police are needed to "protect us at all corners and all times of the day".
"To know there's going to be more cops out there, for my family we'll feel a bit safer," he says.
The police numbers boost comes after former Police Minister Judith Collins publicly criticised Mr English for failing to invest in the sector, during the leadership stoush last year.
Labour leader Andrew Little has already pledged to add 1000 extra police officers.
He says Mr English's isn't leading on the police issue, but rather play catch-up with Labour's policy.
"He refused Judith Collin's plea for more Police as Finance Minister. In May last year he signed off on a four year freeze on Police numbers. Now lo and behold 233 days to the election comes this promise."
He criticised the speech as "short on vision" and made no mention of the housing crisis - "the single biggest worry facing thousands of New Zealanders who are struggling to afford their first home".
ACT says the policy is the right thing to do, but is unimaginative.
While New Zealand First leader Winston Peters also accused Mr English of stealing their policy and says the public can't be fooled.
"They have borne the brunt of crime - they are the ones who have been hospitalised, lost their possessions as offending got out of control.
"Some namby pamby social measures announced today will not help them one iota."
Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the increase represents a 10 percent increase of the workforce over four years.
He says work will now begin to recruit new officers.
The Police Association says the Government has taken notice of the "pressure points" in police, particularly frontline, investigations and organised crime.
"This package shows the Government has done its homework, and while ideally we would like the extra staff immediately, knowing that the cavalry is on its way will be a positive for Police in making future plans," president Chris Cahill says.
Non-emergency number will 'improves access'
Police Minister Paula Bennett says the new 24/7 number will mean the public can get access to police at all times.
There are more than 300 local police phone numbers which aren't manned all the time.
"More than 1.8 million calls are made to local stations a year and satisfaction levels for those that ring are much lower than for 111 emergency calls," she says.
The number will be launched next year - either as a three-digit number or an 0800 number and will be manned by non-sworn officers in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
It is meant for calls including reporting low-level or historic crimes and giving information about suspicious activities.
Meanwhile, the National Party has updated its logo with a more modern design. A simple white 'N' stands before a lighter shade of blue background. The logo has lost its red colour, with three white stars and one blue representing the Southern Cross.