Police Association disagrees with minister over reason for recruitment halt

The Police Association is at odds with the Police Minister over an advancement of budget funds to continue training new officers, while delayed recruits face losing their positions when wings recommence.

The brakes have gone on training new officers with candidates scheduled to attend the Royal New Zealand Police College in February told their entry would be deferred until later in 2021 after recruitment requirements were reconsidered.

The delay has left hundreds of recruits in limbo and leaves the Government well short of its promise last term to put an extra 1800 officers, above and beyond attrition, on the streets by last year.

It also means there won’t be any new officers until at least September after a fresh deployment of 60 police in March.

The association believes police had got ahead of their budget and the delay was a result of Police Minister Poto Williams denying advancement of the funds from the 2017 government.

In a statement, Williams said “all budget matters were confidential”, and that low attrition numbers in recent years meant less of a need for new recruits.

She said the agreement was always budgeted over five years, not three, and police were well on track to meet that target.

Former Police Minister Stuart Nash told Newstalk ZB the Government had met the target of 1800 new officers, claiming there was a misunderstanding in the wording previously used.

“This is funded out for five years, it always was and we more than delivered our promise,” Nash said.

“What we actually said is we would deliver 1800 new police and we delivered 2200 new police.”

However, at the Police Association’s national conference in October 2019, Nash was quoted the opposite when asked for clarification.

“Eighteen hundred more police, over and above the current rate, not 1800 more graduates, 1800 new police,” he said.

Association president Chris Cahill told Newstalk the police simply wanted the money which was promised.

“[The Government will] say they’ll continue to fund this increase over the next three years, we’re saying ‘hang on, you said three years, if we could do it, we can’.

“We’re only asking them to bring forward the money they promised,” he said.

“Why would you shut down the Police College when you’ve got 4000 people wanting to join the police? … we also forget why do we need these numbers? Because we were overloaded with work. Has that changed? No.”

Meanwhile, the delay has put recruits at risk of losing their positions in the candidate pool.

Members of the delayed wing were told in December their applications remained valid and their positions had not changed.

However, the Herald understands this message has since changed, with district demands set to play a major role in re-selecting candidates when wings recommence.

The delay could also mean a number of selection requirements – such as the physical appraisal test, scope and the prerequisite study for entry -expire and need to be completed.

In a statement, a police spokesperson didn’t explicitly address whether the delay would compromise current recruitment positions but the service would continue to work with recruits.

“The final number of wing 345 remains fluid due to operational requirements. Upon reconfirmation of numbers and locations required for wing 345, we will be in contact with the relevant recruits,” the spokesperson said.

“District requirements will also drive priorities for selection. In the districts where police have surplus applicants to requirements at any given point, police will select the best applicants measured by their achievements against our criteria and striving to best reflect the community we serve.”

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