7 biggest changes in 35 years of policing

7 biggest changes in 35 years of policing

Howard Broad, Police Commissioner

This week, 16 colleagues and I receive a clasp for 35 years' service in New Zealand Police. We were among 79 youths, aged 17-18, who started as police cadets back in January 1975.
 
Policing has changed in hundreds of ways since then, but I rank these differences among the stand-outs:  
 
1. Violent crime rates: Comparing crime levels over time is complicated because there are so many factors in the equation. Our population has grown and become more diverse, but I think today's levels of violence can't be explained by just more people. On the plus side, we respond better - not just in policing and medical services, but also with support networks such as Women's Refuge and Rape Crisis. They simply didn't exist 35 years ago.  
 
2. Road policing focus: The Traffic Safety Service merged with Police in 1992. This brought us into the road safety movement and resulted in quite some success. Some argue that having officers give out tickets damages the image of Police, but overall I believe the merger was a positive thing for us as well as road users.
 
3. International policing: We originally posted officers overseas to combat the drug trade but our international policing got a boost after 9/11. We now have liaison officers in eight countries working on transnational crime, and we regularly deploy staff to five countries to help them develop policing capabilities. Our world view has changed - we now link our safety and security with that of our neighbours.
 
4. Accountability: Public sector reforms of the late-1980s made government agencies more accountable. There is more focus on what citizens need from government and whether they are getting it; the media keeps a constant watch.
 
5. Alcohol: New Zealand's enduring obsession with alcohol has not changed. Freeing up our liquor laws was meant to encourage a responsible attitude but the hoped-for maturity has not materialised. Tolerance for the impact of alcohol abuse is now rapidly decreasing.
 
6. Family violence and child abuse: As a new focus, it challenged police attitudes and skill sets, and improved the way we work alongside other organisations. While there are many examples of really good quality work, there is an enduring problem of consistency.
 
7. Technology: Computers and the internet have created new ways to commit old offences, and completely new offences. Intellectual property and identity theft were unheard of when I started but are now all part of the job. There is hardly a case where material stored on a computer or cell phone is not relevant.