Don't wait for election to boost police numbers - Police Association

The Police Association says a good first step to meet demand is 450 new officers (Jared Mason / Newshub.)
The Police Association says a good first step to meet demand is 450 new officers (Jared Mason / Newshub.)

More police officers are urgently needed to meet growing demand - that's the parting shot from outgoing Police Association president Greg O'Connor in his last public speech.

Speaking at the 81st Police Association conference in Wellington on Wednesday, he told Police Minister Judith Collins that it would be "folly" not to listen to police concerns.

"The message I'd like to leave you and the Government today is please listen to the message from frontline police officers as channelled through their association that more police are desperately and urgently needed.

"There are many competing demands on government budget, but police is the organisation that has to pick up the pieces when other departments fail or cannot cope," he said.

And he urged the Government not to wait until election year "when the numbers auction will begin", as it will take time for the "essential cavalry" to be recruited and trained.

He advocated for an immediate injection of around 450 new recruits to bring the ratio of officers to public to 1:500 - it currently sits at around 1:526.

Mr O'Connor says that would be a step toward emulating the ratio in Australia which is 1:432.

He said boosting police numbers would have an effect on how police can deal with the major problems on their plate - including organised crime, methamphetamine, firearm proliferation and burglaries.

He says not addressing the concerns of police will be a political time bomb if nothing is done.

"Anyone who looks at policing at the moment will see an absolute need for more staff - it's chronic and if something is not done, it is going to really start to impact politically next year."

Ms Collins said she'd been talking to Prime Minister John Key since June about police numbers, and any announcement would come from him.

Mr Key had confirmed the Government was "likely" to increase the numbers of police

Ms Collins wouldn't be drawn on when exactly an announcement would be made, except to say it would be in the "near future".

"It's not a back of an envelope kind of thing. This is a full Cabinet process with everything worked out.

"A large amount of work is going on to make sure everything is placed where it needs to be placed."

She noted what the Government had done since she'd been re-appointed Police Minister, including an extra $299.2 million for police over the next four years and $279.9 million to fund pay increases in Budget 2016.

Ms Collins also said there are over 600 police officers more than there were in 2009, with frontline officers also having more technology to do their jobs.

"That said, there is no doubt that demands for police services have increased considerably and there is pressure on police resourcing."

She said the National government had done more for police than previous governments.