Gangs attempting to infiltrate police

By Kate Shuttleworth

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

Police have confirmed that gang members have tried to join the police force but they could not say how many had been intercepted during the recruitment stage.

President of the Police Association Greg O'Connor said "over a dozen" patched Head Hunters gang members had tried to join police training in the last year, and had been plucked out during the recruitment process.

"Under a funding freeze every part of the police is under pressure and that includes recruiting. Recruiting is being centralised to one or two pods and in the districts, there won't be the scrutiny," he said.

Police general manager of HR and organisational development Alan Cassidy confirmed applicants with gang associations or links to organised criminal groups were known to have applied to become police officers but said there didn't seem to be any organised strategy by any particular gang.

"Associations may result in the applicant being declined entry before they enter the Royal New Zealand Police College as a police recruit.

"Our recruitment selection process is unapologetically rigorous and designed to select the very best people for the job."

Police Minister Anne Tolley opened the union's annual conference today (Wed) by drumming in the message that there would be no increase in Government investment in the police force.

"There isn't a lot of money, so you have to have a really good reason and you have to have looked everywhere for every dollar you have."

Mr O'Connor said 170 jobs had been lost since the funding freeze and there would be no new staff in the South Island over the next two years.

Police must find $200 million in the next two years, possibly $400m over four years to make up for the lack of funding.

"That can only come from one place; frontline policing, because it's a pretty lean machine already," said Mr O'Connor.

Mr O'Connor said screening of police recruits would diminish under the funding freeze.

He said the Head Hunters gang members who had tried to join the police had moved into the Hutt Valley area and set up a cage fighting club - Capital Cage Club.

The gang has its headquarters in east Auckland.

Mr O'Connor said the gang's membership had increased from 25 patched members to 92 and was growing.

A criminologist and expert on gangs, Dr Jarrod Gilbert, called Mr O'Connor's comments "utterly implausible."

Dr Gilbert is writing about the history of gangs in New Zealand and lectures at the University of Canterbury.

He says there is no evidence to back Mr O'Connor's comments that members of the Head Hunters motorcycle gang were trying to train as police officers.

He said the vast majority of gang members came from "rough and tumble lifestyles" where they had often had association with the police, usually sending them to court.

"They would have backgrounds that would immediately dismiss them from such endeavours, even if they were trying to do it, and it shows a level forethought that is not ordinarily associated with gangs in New Zealand."

He said the comments were made by Mr O'Connor in order to try to secure more police funding.

Labour's police spokesman Kris Faafoi said further funding constraints may mean it could go unnoticed when gang members tried to infiltrate the police.

"When the head of our Police Association raises the alarm about budget constraints adversely impacting the police recruitment process, we should listen.

"Budget cuts and staff cuts are leaving our police more vulnerable and are loading pressure on the frontline."

- APNZ

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