Poto Williams says police attrition rate 'low compared to other Government agencies' as officer numbers decline by more than 100

Police Minister Poto Williams says the rate at which police officers are leaving the force is "low compared to other Government agencies" amid accusations from the Opposition of declining numbers.

There were 10,244 New Zealand police constables in March and, as of June, there were 10,117 - a decline of 127, according to figures released to the National Party.

On Tuesday, National accused the Government of lacking to meet its promise of delivering 1800 new officers over three years, saying the Police Minister was "failing to support frontline officers".

"Labour's failure to finish recruiting the 1800 new police officers is jeopardising the safety of New Zealanders and their decision to close the police college for six months last year has given gangs an upper hand as their number could soon outnumber the police," said National MP Simeon Brown.

"Frontline officers are feeling a lack of support and respect from their minister and the Labour Government," added Brown, National's police spokesperson.

In a statement to Newshub, Williams' office said the Government was on track to deliver 1800 new police officers by June 2023.

"We have already surpassed 1800 new, with 2678 police graduating since 2017. As a result of this Government's record investment in police - the total police workforce now surpasses 14,000."

With violent criminal behaviour ramping up like never before and an increase in gun crime and gang numbers, the National Party has been calling for the return of Armed Response Teams (ARTs), which were trialled by police last year but discontinued. 

"The increase in gang numbers has been met with great concern by the New Zealand public but few know that police numbers have gone in the opposite direction at the same time; a deeply concerning trend," Brown said.

National was calling on the Government to finish recruiting the 1800 new police officers, he added. The Police Association has said that new police officers are needed "more than ever". 

Williams' office said the police attrition rate - the rate at which people leave - sits at about 2.5 percent and was, overall, "low compared to other Government agencies".

Poto Williams and Simeon Brown.
Poto Williams and Simeon Brown. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Government's track record on crime and gangs has been repeatedly attacked by the Opposition in recent weeks after revelations the Kahukura drug and trauma rehabilitation scheme, involving lifetime Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam, was given almost $3 million in funding taken under the Proceeds of Crime. 

Further questions were raised after a video surfaced online showing Tam using a Nazi salute and urging fellow Mongrel Mob members not to vote for the National Party. It's believed the video was taken ahead of Election 2020. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government wanted to stop gangs engaging in criminal activity.

"That is why we have funded the police to create additional numbers around organised crime," she told The AM Show on Monday.

"The question that seems to be the case here is, how do you fund programmes that have people who have been affiliated with gangs and have drug issues?"

She pushed back on the idea the Government supported gangs.

"What I will push back on - there's been some suggestion here that because it's a treatment programme… the idea that somehow implicitly means that we support gangs - I just reject that," said Ardern, referring to the Kahukura programme.