Auckland Forum on Policing and Violence; speech by Commissioner Rob Robinson

Auckland Forum on Policing and Violence; speech by Commissioner Rob Robinson

Auckland City


He honore, he kororia ki te Atua

He maungarongo ki runga i te mata o te whenua

He whakaaro pai ki nga tangata katoa

Tihei Mauriora!

E nga mana, e nga reo, e rau rangatira ma

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa


• Rt Hon Helen Clark / Hon Phil Goff (to be confirmed);

• Ngati Whatua;

• MPs Pansy Wong and Matt Robson;

• Mayor John Banks and Noeleen Raffils (Auckland City Council Law and Order)

• Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon and chief advisor David Bradley;

• Professor Ian Shirley, Director of Public Policy, AUT;

• Fellow speakers, panellists and attendees.

A very warm welcome to you all.

Firstly, I’d like to thank the Organising Committee for making today’s forum possible.

For reasons that I’ll come to in a minute, it’s great to see so many points of view and areas of expertise represented here.

I hope that by bringing our collective thinking and knowledge to bear on the seemingly intractable issues surrounding violence, we will be able to move forward as a community, reduce victimisation and make a difference to the lives of victims.

I’d like to offer a few thoughts on today’s programme.

I was encouraged to see that the aims are to address violent offending through community engagement; and to encourage informed public debate on violence and the role of agencies such as the Police in relation to both interventions proactive and reactive.

I’d like to inject into that debate some observations on the nature of the phenomenon we’re dealing with, in the hope that it may help clarify how we can best make progress.

One of the difficulties in any discussion on violence is that it is complex, subjective and has different cultural dimensions. One definition definitely doesn’t fit all.

We can perhaps consider there to be a continuum. Homicide and the other serious crimes being at one end, and intimidatory actions such as bullying, neglect, intimidation and isolation at the other end.

Many different organisations have an interest in quite specific segments of the continuum and events on it.

There are the government agencies like Police, Courts, Corrections and Child Youth and Family, and an incredibly diverse range of victims and community groups dealing with everything from victims of physical violence through to pre-school health and education.

Apart from the relatively successful family violence campaign of the 1990s, our efforts have been quite dispersed. I don’t think we have consolidated and pressed on from the gains made in that campaign to develop a cohesive and comprehensive way of using our combined resources to maximum effect.

To start down that road, the question everyone here needs to ask is: "where do I fit along that continuum and is that a reasonable or appropriate place to make a contribution?"

For Police, the answer to that is reasonably clear. Our responsibilities and powers lie principally in enforcement, investigation and detection. We have a range of unique powers in this domain.

This means we operate predominantly as reactors to offences of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, wounding and injuring with intent, assaults, robbery, aggravated robbery and sexual violation end of the continuum.

However we also play a role in prevention and community safety, which is where our youth education, youth programmes, youth aid and Maori and ethnic liaison officers come in.

In the past couple of years we’ve put some effort into understanding and determining how we can use our resources to best effect.

Our National Violence Reduction Plan provides a framework for the 12 Police Districts to work in support of and with communities to reduce the profile of violence.

This relies on an effective partnership between Police, other agencies and communities, encouraging everyone to work together to prevent violence and reduce victimisation and offending.

Today’s themes of community engagement and the role of Police converge squarely, whichever view is taken of the issues.

An important part of the Police plan revolves around identifying our "points of difference". Obviously, these will relate principally but not exclusively to enforcement-related activities.

It’s important that we avoid duplicating the programmes and services of others who are working at various points along the continuum.

To use a rugby analogy – and Christine and David, I apologise because rugby may be a sore spot with you after last Saturday – but there’s no point in a forward pack trying to muscle in on the job of the backs. It would be a duplication of effort, they’d be less effective in their roles as forwards, and they’d be far less able (not to mention pretty) at back line work than the backs.

So through partnerships, we’ll look to complement the work of others who deal with violence rather than double up on existing services, dilute our own energy and resources and lessen the impact of the effort. We need to play to our respective strengths.

Our National Violence Reduction Plan is built around developing partnerships to create Safer Homes, Safer Streets and Safer Schools.

That’s where violence mostly occurs, so that’s where we believe our efforts should go first.

I’d like to take the specific example of family violence to illustrate what I mean about the role of Police and community engagement.

One of the fundamental difficulties with violence lies in the fact that our attitudes to others are learned in the home.

Unfortunately, there is good reason to label family violence as "the cradle for the perpetuation of all violence".

We see this illustrated most graphically by the fact that of all violence reported to Police, more than 45% is recorded as family violence.

This figure becomes even more disturbing when you consider that some 6% of victims suffer around 60% of all victimisation in the area of violent and sexual offending.

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that the lives of some women and children in our community are miserable indeed.

That presents Police with something of a problem, in that private homes and dwellings are not our domain. Family violence is a dynamic that we can’t easily influence.

We can only use our powers and resources to intervene when it’s appropriate in terms of the law. Admittedly, this is usually ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff.

What we can do though, is build rock solid partnerships with others in the community who can walk in through the front door, sit down and intervene to begin the work of unscrambling the difficult dynamics that have led to that family’s crisis.

In other words, if we can’t directly intervene, we know someone who can.

If I have one message that I’d like everyone to take from today, it’s this.

There has to be a whole of community, whole of government total commitment to an abhorrence of violence.

We need to break the social and political taboos and speak out. And we need to act together by defining our roles and complementing rather than duplicating each other’s efforts.

Only then will we be fulfilling our obligations to the victims of violence, and only then will we be helping to create the sort of society to which we all aspire.

No reira

E aku rangitira ma (to respected leaders)

E hoa ma (friends all)

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa