Record cop numbers, but 'failures on the beat'

New Zealand Police announced today it now has over 8000 sworn officers -- the highest number ever.

It was also on track to hit the Government's target of 1000 extra officers for a total 8500 by 2009, as promised to NZ First for supporting a Labour-led Government after the last election.

The figures were released on the same day it was revealed that recruits who failed tests for skills such as driving, firearms and unarmed combat were still being allowed to go on the beat.

Police human resources manager Wayne Annan said today there were now enough police to link arms and circle Eden Park 48 times.

He hoped the number of sworn officers to reach 8500 by 2009.

"New Zealand Police is still seeking quality candidates as it aims to boost its numbers further," he said.

In particular, there were many opportunities in Auckland and recruits could jump waiting lists and begin their police careers immediately.

This morning, The Press reported recruits who failed driving, firearms and unarmed combat tests were still donning uniforms and taking to the streets.

Mr Annan said the failed recruits were allowed to do "limited duties" until they resat and passed all their tests.

They were also given multiple chances to pass at police college.

"If they were really hopeless they wouldn't have got into police college in the first place," he said.

In the past, recruits either passed everything or did not graduate, he said.

The new "performance management process enhancements" allowed recruits to do remedial work and resit failed exams.

Constables on limited duties were paid $33,000, compared to the $50,000 when fully qualified.

Mr Annan said the changes were not made to meet recruitment quotas.

Police Minister Annette King supported putting test-failing recruits on duty, but said there were no more than three ungraduated recruits on the beat.

Two of them needed remedial work to pass their driving tests and a third possibly still needed to fulfil some language requirements.

The drive to recruit more women, Asians and Pacific Islanders into the force made the additional training necessary, she said.

The practice was not widespread.

"It doesn't mean they are dumb, useless or not wanted, but they just have areas where they need additional help and they could be amongst our best police officers once they've had the opportunities," Ms King said.

She also said standards had not been lowered to meet the Government's recruitment target.

- NZPA

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