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Role of the Police

New Zealand Police is an important part of the community. It seeks to prevent crime and crashes, improve public safety, detect and bring offenders to account, and maintain law and order.

Police officers see the best and the worst of life. Law enforcement is only a small part of their job. Their work also includes such things as preventing crime, searching for missing persons, dealing with sudden deaths, identifying lost property and helping victims of road crashes.

Police photo pack

This Photo pack for schools (PDF, 7.4MB) contains a set of photos of Police to show the range of services Police provide.

Teachers and police officers select from the photos the ones that best suit the age and maturity of the students and the topic being taught to show how police serve their community.

The photos included in the resource are listed below or available for download (Word, 82KB). Copies of the photo pack are also available from your local School Community Officer

Photos Caption
1 Police graduates Generally six to eight graduation ceremonies are held every year at the Royal New Zealand Police College. A group of recruits (between 60–170 people who come to the College at the same time) is called a wing. Each wing is divided into sections of about 20 recruits from different ethnic backgrounds and genders. Each section does all the police training together.
The graduation ceremony is for the whole wing. Parents and families are invited and it is a very emotional time, as it marks the end of the first stage of a police career. It takes two years to qualify as a Police Constable.
2 Recruits doing physical training Police recruits at the Royal New Zealand Police College undertake training in a number of different areas. One of these is physical training, designed to help them achieve above-average fitness.
All front-line police officers must undertake a physical competency test (PCT) every two years to assess their level of fitness. They must keep an above-average level of fitness in order to carry out their regular duties.
3 Recruits doing firearms training Recruits do firearms training using the Glock pistol and Bushmaster rifle. Here recruits, wearing ear and eye protection, practise shooting under supervision. Police officers do not carry firearms all the time. Firearms are issued only in special circumstances. Firearms retraining is repeated every six to twelve months.
4 Baton training Recruits at the Police College receive training in using police protection equipment such as the baton, OC (pepper) spray and handcuffs. Each officer has to pass a test each year to use the police equipment. Police officers use protection equipment in circumstances ranging from public disorder incidents to breaking windows to enter houses.
5 School Community Officer at work Some police officers decide to work with schools. They are specially trained at the Police College to work in schools with students, teachers and parents. School Community Officers (SCO) work with the school to help them find out what they need and help resolve any problems. They may support the teaching of some Police programmes such as Keeping Ourselves Safe, Kia Kaha, School Road Safety Education, Choice, and Burglary Free. The SCO helps the school plan, teach and assess the effectiveness of the learning programmes. Here an SCO is working with the teacher and year 3 students.
6 Bicycle check Part of the School Community Officer’s work in schools is road safety education, which includes such things as training school traffic safety teams and teaching young people road safety skills. Here the officer carries out a cycle check while the teacher checks the safety and fitting of cycle helmets.
7 Community constables Community constables are assigned to a specific community and handle policing matters there. They aim to be visible, accessible and familiar to their community. Community constables focus on problem solving and crime prevention at a local level. Their regular work may include walking the beat, talking to business owners and pedestrians, meeting with community groups and organisations, identifying community concerns, and building partnerships with the community, government and non-government agencies.
8 Fall-in or muster Police officers provide a 24-hour service. Groups or sections of officers work shifts, usually 8 hours long. Before each group goes on duty, they meet and are briefed about what has happened during the previous 24 hours and also about people who are wanted for committing offences or for questioning. This information is recorded in the officer’s notebook. Officers are also checked to see that they are wearing the correct uniform and carrying their equipment (handcuffs, baton and O/C spray). The officer in charge assigns the duties for each shift.
9 Front counter The front counter of the police station is where members of the public come to seek advice or help. Here a police officer writes down the details of an incident being reported by a member of the public.
10 Scene of crime officer Scene of crime officers check crime scenes for any forensic evidence. This can include DNA, fingerprints, and fibres. They will then photograph, lift, preserve and package the evidence for further analysis. They wear protective clothing at a crime scene, to protect themselves and also to avoid contaminating the evidence. Items of evidence are either treated at the scene or taken back to the crime scene laboratory at a police station for further chemical treatment. Certain types of evidence such as DNA swabs are sent to directly to forensic laboratories in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch that can analyse biological samples (such as DNA), physical evidence (paint, glass, fibres, firearms, ballistics, etc.), illicit drugs, toxicology, breath/blood alcohol and workplace drug testing.
11 Fingerprinting Scene of crime officers dust suitable surfaces hoping to find and ‘lift’ a clear fingerprint left by the offender. The prints are compared with the files of prints held at the National Fingerprint Section in Wellington, to see if they match the prints of a known offender. The National Fingerprint Section stores more than 430,000 original sets of fingerprints, and manages the Automated Fingerprint Identification computer system.
12 Electronic crime laboratory The New Zealand Police is one of many government agencies that deal with computer-related offending. Today, almost every major investigation has an electronic component because people use the Internet, mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, iPods, personal navigation devices and other electronic equipment as a matter of course in their daily lives.
These electronic devices made it possible to find new ways to commit crimes such as fraud, drug dealing, extortion, harassment and paedophilia. They also make it easy for offending to cross a large distance and different countries.
The Internet has brought criminal offending right into our homes –and even into children’s bedrooms if computers are kept there. Some victims, and especially children, are easy targets because they don’t know enough about keeping safe online.
In this photo a cellphone is being forensically analysed.
13 Crowd control One of the roles of the Police is to maintain law and order and public safety. Some police officers are sent to keep order at functions where large numbers of people gather to watch an event or sometimes to protest. This photo shows Police presence at a rugby game at Eden Park, Auckland.
14 Highway patrol At the end of 2000 the New Zealand Police formed a special Highway Patrol unit. The Highway Patrol’s aim is to help reduce crashes and make our roads safer by providing a highly visible, dedicated police presence. Highway Patrol staff are based on state highways, where the higher speeds often contribute to the seriousness of the crashes.
Higher visibility on the roads gives the public a sense of confidence that Police are not only out there, but are taking an active interest in their safety. A visible presence also acts as a deterrent to those who wish to ignore the road laws.
In this photo a driver is being given a speeding ticket.
15 Drink-drive checkpoint Local Police set checkpoints (such as the one shown here) to deter drinking and driving. If drivers see checkpoints, they serve as a reminder not to drink and drive. Cars passing a checkpoint are stopped and the drivers are required to take a passive breath test or breath-screening test. If the test shows the driver has been drinking alcohol, they are required to take an evidential breath test.
Checkpoints are sometimes held in the early morning, as a lot of partygoers do not realise that they may still be over the limit next morning.
Each Police district has a dedicated unit called a Traffic Alcohol Group (TAG). They set up checkpoints in different areas to deal with drink-driving and motor offences. The units travel around the Police districts in both rural and urban areas.
16 Speed camera As part of the plan to keep road deaths and injuries down, Police put speed cameras in places where speed has been a significant factor in crashes or there is an obvious road safety risk.
Sometimes the speed cameras are mounted on poles, but can be in Police vehicles or hand held, as shown in the photo. The camera takes a photo of any car that is travelling faster than the speed limit, above a certain speed tolerance. The owner of the car can receive a fine. The presence of a speed camera can act as a deterrent to speeding.
17 Search and rescue Some Police officers volunteer to work in teams that are specially trained in search and rescue techniques. These officers search for people who are lost, find them, rescue the injured and recover dead bodies in remote or inaccessible areas.
The Police Search and Rescue (SAR) team works in co-operation with New Zealand Land SAR, the Amateur Radio Emergency Communications, Coastguard New Zealand, and Surf Life Saving New Zealand. They use support services (such as the ambulance service), rescue helicopters (such as the Westpac Rescue Helicopter) and the resources of the defence forces resources, especially the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Police are the co-ordinators of Category I Search and Rescue operations on land and sea off shore up to the range of Coastguard boats.
Police Search and Rescue officers also look after disaster victim identification when people are killed in air crashes, natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
18 General-purpose Police dogs General-purpose Police dogs are used mainlyto track and search for people.
The training of a general-purpose dog is in three stages and takes about 8 months. All training courses are conducted at the Police Dog Training Centre at Trentham (Wellington).
Dogs live at home with their handlers. All the handlers are experienced Police officers with about 5 years’ policing experience before they join the Dog Section.
Police use German Shepherds because of their size, temperament and trainability. Half the dogs are gifted or bought from the public. The Dog Training Centre also has its own breeding programme, which provides the remaining dogs needed.
General-purpose dogs are also trained to carry out other work such as search and rescue (including avalanche rescue), deployment with the Armed Offender Squad, firearm detection, and drug detection in smaller centres that do not have a specialist dog.
There are also ten drug detection dog teams and three bomb detection dog teams.
19 Drug detection dog Police dogs are also used in narcotics, explosives and firearms detection. Police mainly use Labradors for the specialist role of finding illegal drugs
20 Iwi Liaison Officer and Māori Wardens Iwi Liaison Officers operate at a community level and concentrate on improving relationships between Police and Māori. Police work closely with Safer Community Councils and Māori Wardens, especially in the areas of youth suicide prevention, applying the national drug policy and working to improve road safety.
This photo, taken in Masterton, shows the Iwi Liaison Officer and two Māori wardens.
21 Rural Police officer Police officers who work in country areas have to perform all the functions carried out by specialists in a city police station. They are an integral part of the local community and often live in a police house attached to the police station. Here the officer talks to one of the local farmers.
22 Police launch The Wellington Police Maritime Unit consists of a senior sergeant, a sergeant and 10 constables. The service provides 24-hour coverage to the public, based on shifts from 7 am to 11 pm on weekdays, and 10 am to 9 pm on weekends. After-hours response is on a call-out basis – the crew can be on the water within 15 minutes of getting an emergency call. The unit operates in a radius of 90 nautical miles from the entrance of Wellington Harbour. The newest vessel, Lady Elizabeth IV, was launched in August 2010. Up to eight staff from different agencies can go to sea for a week in the 18.5-metre catamaran.
23 Air support unit The Air Support Unit is based in Auckland. It is made up of a sergeant and seven constables. The hours of operation are early and late shifts Monday to Friday, with a third twilight shift on Thursday and Friday evenings. A twilight shift is worked on Saturday. Staff are available on call outside of these hours.
The Air Support Unit leases two twin-engine Eurocopter AS355 F1 Squirrels operating under the call-sign “Eagle”. These are flown by pilots provided as part of the lease. The rest of the crew is made up of Police officers.
The Eagle is usually airborne within 3 minutes of receiving a call and can arrive anywhere in greater Auckland within 12 minutes. It is used in a range of ways, including search and rescue, directing patrol vehicles, crime detection and co-ordinating police responses.
In this photo a Police dog and its handler has been taken in the helicopter Eagle to a crime scene. The dog is checking for a scent.
24 Airport Police Airport Police are located at airports that have scheduled International and Jet Aircraft flights. Their presence is required for New Zealand to meet its international security obligations and so they focus on the security of the airport and passengers. They are trained to assist in a multi-agency response to an airport emergency. They also deal with crime and road policing in and around the airport.
25 Police car on patrol These officers are out on patrol. One partner is speaking with the driver of the car that they have pulled over. The other officer is on the radio talking to a Communicator/Dispatcher based at the Police Communication Centre. He is describing what is happening and asking for information about the car and the people in it. He can also use the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) screen in front of him to find some of that information.
While the officer is doing these checks he is also keeping an eye on his partner and making sure he is safe. If anything happens he calls the dispatcher on the radio to send more staff.
The MDT also tells the officers about the next job (incident) they have to go to. When they get there they push a button which lets the dispatcher know that they have arrived at the address. This helps to cut down radio traffic.
26 Police dive squad The Police National Dive Squad is based in Wellington, but responds to requests for assistance from all over New Zealand. Around two to six divers are called to each job, which can last from several hours to several days.
The squad spends most of its time searching for evidence. Sometimes these searches involve technically difficult underwater video work, which is later used as evidence.
The squad often videos bodies in the sea or river to give doctors at autopsies an accurate view of the body when it was found. Videos also enable the officer in charge of a case to see exactly what the diver sees before anything is brought to the surface. The squad focuses on recovery, not rescue.
27 Overseas deployment The New Zealand Police deploys staff to locations in the Pacific, Southeast Asia and beyond to help countries increase stability, security and policing capability. They may also assist in a natural disaster, such as the tsunami in Samoa in 2009.
New Zealand Police are currently deployed to Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands. All staff assigned to overseas deployments undergo specialist training such as language, culture, marine safety, first aid, firearms and navigation. Each deployment requires a wide spectrum of skills and abilities, drawing on staff from various branches in the New Zealand Police including general duties, the criminal investigations branch and other specialist areas.
This picture was taken while the police officer was on patrol in the Band-e Amir Lakes region of Bamiyan province in Afganistan. The officers are required to be fully armed when on patrol in this area.
28 Armed Offenders Squad The New Zealand Police is essentially an unarmed service. The Armed Offenders Squad allows Police to safely respond to and resolve situations in which there is an actual or threatened use of firearms or other weapons against members of the public or Police. AOS cordon and contain the scene and appeal to armed offenders.
These tactics are usually successful and in most incidents are resolved without the use of force.
The AOS is also used for some pre-planned operations where there is a high risk – for example, large cash escorts, or assisting other Police with search warrants.
The squads are supported by negotiation teams and specially trained police dogs and handlers. AOS members are all volunteers. They are part-time, drawn from all branches of Police, and operate on a call-out basis.
29 Police communications centres New Zealand Police Communication Centres handle three types of calls:
·       111 emergency calls, when urgent, immediate assistance is required (deaf and hearing impaired people can text 111 if they have an emergency)
·       non-emergency or ‘general’ calls –less urgent incidents that have happened a while ago and don’t need an immediate police response
·       555 calls for reporting traffic emergencies.
In total, Police communications centres handle an average of 49,000 emergency, non-emergency (general) and *555 calls every week. The number of calls is going up every year.
30 Arrest Police have the power to arrest people for arrestable offences ranging from theft to murder. Arrested people are told their rights, which include the right to contact a lawyer or have somebody told about their arrest.
Prisoners are not always handcuffed, but Police have the power to handcuff prisoners if they are violent or likely to escape custody. After arrest offenders are brought back to the police station and can be held in the police cells. Most prisoners are released on bail pending a court hearing. In certain circumstances, offenders can be denied bail and remain in custody.


These photographs were provided by the Public Affairs, Recruiting and Wellington Photography Section of the New Zealand Police.