Northland's thin blue line shows cracks

By Kristin Edge

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Superintendent Russell le Prou acknowledged staff who felt stressed and under pressure were more likely to feel disengaged. Photo / John Stone
Superintendent Russell le Prou acknowledged staff who felt stressed and under pressure were more likely to feel disengaged. Photo / John Stone

Northland police have the blues with staff feeling over-stressed and lacking recognition for their efforts.

Police have released their annual workplace survey which details how officers and non-sworn staff across New Zealand feel about their jobs.

The survey of sworn and non-sworn staff revealed Northlanders were the least "engaged" out of 26 police districts and working groups.

Northland staff felt the least confident that their contribution was valued and that the organisation cared about their well-being.

Northland staff were less connected to the organisation than was typically seen in other policing regions in New Zealand.

It is the third year in a row Northland has returned such negative results with 246 staff out of a total of 397 completing the survey this year. Last year 260 staff responded.

The region's police boss Superintendent Russell le Prou said an increase in serious crime in the area, particularly in the Far North, had been a major factor towards staff feeling stressed.

Staff were stretched in the Far North with four homicide investigations this year and a number of violent assaults and robberies, including three knife attacks in Kaitaia in one week and the record-breaking seizure of 494kg of methamphetamine landed on Ninety Mile Beach.

Extra staff from outside the region had been sent north to help with the backlog of serious files and provide support.

An improvement was noted with more staff knowing who to contact if they witnessed bullying or discrimination and more staff felt poor performance was addressed appropriately.

Survey results showed Northland staff agreed they were themselves committed to their work.

The results were released in July with Northland staff being advised by email. Since then face-to-face sessions had been carried out and were continuing in order to make improvements.

Mr le Prou said staff who felt stressed and under pressure were more likely to feel disengaged and changes had been made in the region since the results were released.

"The answers from those who did complete the survey are an indication of what needs to be addressed to ensure staff are fully engaged and performing to the best of their ability," Mr le Prou said.

"We recognise when there has been a number of serious crimes, often of a very complex nature, that staff need extra support to ensure their welfare and that their work can be carried out to the highest possible standard."

A strength of the Northland staff was a strong commitment to their work which benefited the community.

"Police staff work very closely with members of the public and are an important part of their communities. This close relationship is essential in maintaining trust and confidence in police, which allows members of the public to be safe and feel safe," Mr le Prou said.

Staff numbers were boosted in the Far North last month after two senior detectives spoke out about working in "crisis mode" because of a lack of resources, and operating under a metropolitan model of policing with rural resources.

Police News, the monthly magazine published by the New Zealand Police Association, reported during July in Kaitaia there were 35 unassigned files, 12 of which were considered critical - sexual assault cases, missing people and suspicious deaths.

In the Mid North there were 58 unassigned files for similar cases.

- Northern Advocate

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