Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Police shut down community kiosks after health and safety review

A police email said volunteers would no longer be used to man public stations. Photo / File
A police email said volunteers would no longer be used to man public stations. Photo / File

Some police community kiosks have closed their doors as a result of a health and safety review, while an assault in South Auckland earlier this week has sent volunteers in that area behind counters.

An email sent to volunteers from a senior police officer described "a recent incident at a South Auckland station where a volunteer had been injured had been the catalyst for police to consider the health and safety of volunteers across the country".

It said volunteers would no longer be used to man public stations.

In private communications with its non-sworn volunteer force, some community police have branded the move "knee-jerk" and "short-sighted".

The Herald was told of community offices in north Auckland shutting their doors at 2pm today.

Police this afternoon confirmed volunteers would now sit behind counters rather than in open reception areas in the Counties Manukau district, because of the assault in a reception area last week.

Commanders in other regions had been advised to take whatever action they decided was necessary to keep volunteers safe.

"This was a terrible attack and we have a responsibility to ensure that our staff are safe when they are at work and we must take every possible precaution to mitigate the risk of this happening again," Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham said.

Some policing districts were also looking at kiosks, which are manned only by volunteers.

Some of these will be closed until a "more comprehensive audit" is completed.

Meanwhile, after the safety review, police front counters were now being made safer.

The review found 105 stations, typically smaller ones, where "more immediate practical steps were needed to increase security".

Other measures to be taken at stations include having CCTV cameras cover the entrance and front counters and installing duress alarms at the counters.

"In some of these stations one of the options may be to limit public access to times when constabulary staff are on the premises," Mr Boreham said.

"This does not mean that stations will permanently close, but that public access at some stations may be, as an interim measure, restricted to those times when a constabulary [or] authorised officers are available to work at the front counter."

Labour's police spokesman Stuart Nash told the Herald kiosks had been shut until further notice because of serious health and safety fears.

He understood a volunteer was put at risk as they manned a small suburban kiosk on Monday or Tuesday, but did not know any further details.

"Obviously a volunteer has been put in harm's way," Mr Nash said.

Mr Nash was aware of five community police kiosks closing suddenly throughout the Mana electorate.

He said he was concerned this would lead to a further weakening of police presence in the community and hoped it wasn't a permanent, cost-cutting measure.

It was absolutely vital to retain a police presence in communities and to suddenly remove the volunteer brigade was potentially troubling.

"This shows also the police reliance on volunteers is putting the whole integrity of the system at risk," he said.

A spokeswoman for Police Minister Judith Collins said she had been advised of the assault and subsequent decision about volunteers in Counties Manukau.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 03 Dec 2016 21:07:56 Processing Time: 1058ms