MEDIA STATEMENT 14 December 2001
Auckland City Police District Commander Superintendent Howard Broad today acknowledged that his staff were under significant pressure due to an abnormally high workload and an unusually high level of vacancies in the district.
"We were always going to be stretched at this time of the year, but a number of difficult and high profile cases have added to the current burden carried by staff," he said.
He referred particularly to the triple homicide investigation after three people were killed and one critically injured at the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA last Saturday, the recent near fatal attack on a woman in Freeman’s Bay, the attempted murder of a woman in Panmure last Saturday and the recent death of a young man resulting from a brawl in East Street.
"We have the resources to deal with these types of cases, but when they all come together at a time of year when we routinely experience high levels of other significant crime and when we simultaneously seek to maintain a high road safety and street policing commitment, we find the increased demand extremely challenging.
"The situation we find ourselves in was predicted twelve months ago".
"Auckland City District is one of two districts that was particularly affected by the decisions to defer recruit wings late last year.
"We have higher than average staff turnover and we rely on replacements from the Police College. Staff are attracted to serve in other districts because of the perceived high cost of living in Auckland, the relative difficulties of transport to and from work – particularly to those stations in the central business district – and a perception that police activities are less onerous in those other districts.
"We forecast the number of staff we would have at this time of year and while the number is less than what we would consider as optimum, we are recruiting as fast as we can to bring our numbers back by June 2002."
Mr Broad said he had had many conversations with the Commissioner about the situation in Auckland City over the past year.
"He is fully aware of the risks we face and he is very supportive of our position, as is evidenced by his decision to reinforce the district when I sought extra resources earlier this week.
"I had also discussed with him how we were to manage the forecast difficulties and I have implemented changes to our deployment of staff as a result."
These changes include:
Each of the three areas in the district has been instructed to operate a minimum of two incident cars on every shift. The numbers of these cars double at night later in the week where there is a shift overlap. I can say in response to claims made by the Police Association about yesterday’s deployment that incident cars were deployed in accordance with this policy with the exception of the late shift in the Eastern Area. However, in support of incident cars at the time were sufficient crime, strategic traffic and other investigative staff to ensure that priority calls were met.
Fully qualified non-commissioned officers are in the field to support front line staff at all times
Additional workload and file management systems have been implemented to avoid individual officers carrying excessive file loads. The threshold at which cases are prioritised for investigation has been lifted.
As much as possible, sworn staff have been moved from lower priority positions to fill those required to service urgent calls for service. This has caused some problems, particularly in the maintenance of a number of Community Constable positions, but urgent response work has been determined as a higher priority.
The Team Policing Unit has been deployed to primarily deal with street disorder problems in the inner city and to be available to support field staff
Staff numbers on the Crime Squad - the unit deployed to handle urgent criminal investigations and which responds to major crimes as they occur - have been maintained.
Mr Broad said one consequential impact on the district’s performance is that responsiveness to important but less urgent cases has been affected.
"This has been particularly evident in burglary responsiveness where the responsibility for attendance at crime scenes is frequently that of the incident cars rather than dedicated units. At times of extraordinary demand we cannot meet our own performance standards. This situation is likely to continue for several months."
He said the staff retention issue was a difficult management challenge and was not something that had developed in the past 12 months.
"It is a problem experienced by a range of other organisations in the Auckland area.
"I agree with the Commissioner’s comments that changes cannot be produced overnight.
"I look forward to working with policy staff from the Commissioner’s office to come up with solutions to our problems. In the meantime I believe that the public can be assured that urgent police work is attended to and I ask for patience in relation to matters of less than an urgent nature."
Superintendent Howard Broad
Auckland City District Police Commander