Chris Hipkins defends Labour's record on backing police, says officers deserve better

Labour leader Chris Hipkins has hit out at the Government's backing of police and called on them to back up their "rhetoric and posturing" by offering officers a deal they can accept. 

It comes as members of the New Zealand Police Association unequivocally rejected the Government's latest pay offer, calling it "insulting", "demoralising", "farcical" and an "absolute joke". 

The rejected offer from the coalition Government comes about six months after officers also rejected the Labour Government's offer, with the association saying the two offers were basically the same.  

The Police Association this week said due to inflation, the new offer from the coalition Government is now worth two thousand dollars less. 

Hipkins joined AM on Wednesday morning for his weekly interview and told the show the onus is on the coalition Government to make good on the "rhetoric and posturing" they were saying during the election campaign last year and give police an offer they can accept.  

The rejected pay offer has also led to fears of a brain drain across the Tasman, with association president Chris Cahill saying Australian recruitment lines would've been "red hot" since members heard of the offer last Friday.

This led AM co-host Lloyd Burr to ask whether New Zealand needed to be worried about a drain of officers.  

"I think there's still plenty of police on the beat, but we do need to be focused on retaining our police," Hipkins replied.  

"Police retention is still very high, it's still one of the professions in the country which has the highest rates of retention, that's a good thing, but we can never be complacent about that and that's why I think this Government needs to make good on the rhetoric they put out there before the election. I mean, they were full of slogans before the election. They've been a bit short on action since the election." 

Many officers are struggling with the cost of living crisis and the extreme financial pressures they're currently facing, including difficulty and inability to pay rent and mortgages. 

This problem isn't new and was occurring under the previous Labour Government, but Hipkins defended his track record of backing police  

"If you look at the police pay increases over the time that we were in government and you compare those to the police pay increases that they received under the prior government, I think it does show that we did take police's concerns around their pay and conditions very seriously," Hipkins told AM.  

"We put 1800 extra police on the beat. We've actually taken seriously some of their concerns about their conditions of work, the huge amount that we've invested in frontline police safety, for example, I think does actually recognise the fact that when police came to us and said, 'hey, we're really concerned that police are being injured on the job and then some of them are not making it home at the end of the day, and we should do something about that', we heeded that call and we did do something about it." 

Watch the full interview above.