Tuesday, 26 September 2023 - 3:05pm

Taking the time

3 min read

News article photos (1 items)

Authorised Officer Amrinder Khipal pictured in Waikato’s District Custody Unit.

Each shift Amrinder Khipal works in the in the Waikato District Custody Unit, he takes a few minutes to check detainees' profiles.

He’s looking at the charges and history of offending for an insight into the drivers of this person’s crime.

Then he’ll sit and chat to them to find out what’s happening in their life. Have they got a driving licence? A job? Can they afford to buy food? Where do they live?

He wants to know whether the offender could benefit from one of the many services offered through AWHI – Police’s tikanga-based voluntary referral system that helps to address the precursors to crime by referring people to a service provider to help them from offending, reoffending or becoming victims of crime or harm.

The referral is made as well as, not instead of any other decision or action taken. An AWHI referral can be offered to anyone aged 16 years old or older and is completely voluntary: the people we are trying to help can choose whether or not to accept it.

In a month between July and August, Amrinder - or AK, as he is known - made eight per cent of Waikato's AWHI referrals and 17 per cent of Hamilton City’s.

“We see detainees and they have no drivers licence, and we are arresting them for the same crimes – it’s a cycle,” he says.

“Some say they can’t afford it, some say they don’t have time and others don’t know how to do it. If they get a licence, they can get a job and help their families.”

AK, who comes from a family of Defence Force personnel in the Punjab city of Bathinda, joined Police as an Authorised Officer in March and is working towards a pathway in policing. He lives in Hamilton with his wife, 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.

Many of the people coming through the District Custody Unit (DCU) are impacted by social pressures and issues - AWHI is one avenue for helping those people find ways to mitigate those issues.

When detainees are brought into Custody, mostly during the day shift, he’ll take a few minutes to look at the charges and see whether they are suitable for referral.

Most are young men who don’t have a full or suitable driver’s licence or are a disqualified driver.

“Some want to get out of it, they want a job and to help their families, but they might need a bit of help.”

It’s not just driver licences either, it’s access to anger management support, the food bank, family violence services, budgeting services or drink-driving courses.

“I think it’s part of our values and our empathy, so we are trying to help make sure they don’t come back for the same crimes.

“Even if I’m helping one person – I’m helping their family, the kids, their wife.”

AK has received updates on the referrals, notifying him for example that a person has gone on to complete the driver licensing course.

DCU Senior Sergeant Joe Polascheck says AK is doing “amazing things in the AWHI space” by making it a priority to speak to people each shift and help where he can by making referrals.

Many people coming through DCU have made poor choices and can benefit from the wellbeing services offered via AWHI.

These include referrals to accommodation providers, addiction and mental health services, budgeting, sexual health and wellbeing services as well as driver licensing and related courses.