Barry Soper: Parties open pre-election bidding on police numbers

Labour has promised 1000 new police over three years if they come to power. The Government has yet to put their bid in. Photo / File
Labour has promised 1000 new police over three years if they come to power. The Government has yet to put their bid in. Photo / File

Thank you very much for your kind donation, went the Telethon jingle of the 70s and 80s, which had people dipping into their pockets for the television extravaganza in an attempt to outbid the last bid.

It's been a bit like that around Parliament over the past 24-hours as the pre-election year bidding on police numbers has begun in earnest. It's something as a parting gift for the cops' mouthpiece for the past 21 years Greg O'Connor, who was gifted with a beautiful greenstone mere, that would have come in handy over the years as he's battled with Governments over falling budgets.

As his final act of political payback at his farewell dinner, O'Connor had the current Police Minister Judith Collins sitting next to the man she sued for defamation four years ago, Labour's Andrew Little.

But if the Labour leader was left with a sour taste in his mouth, it was all sweetness and light when he addressed the Police Association late yesterday and came bearing gifts, the promise of another thousand cops during his first three years in the Beehive, if he's given the chance next year.

Greg O'Connor has left as Police Association national president after 21 years in the top job. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Greg O'Connor has left as Police Association national president after 21 years in the top job. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There was a lot of nodding in the audience as Little told them what they clearly already knew, that there are fewer cops today than there were two years ago even though the population's grown by two hundred thousand. In that time the crime stats have grown along with the population, like burglaries at 50 a day with just one in 20 being solved.

Currently the number of cops as a ratio to population stands at one to 528. Labour's recruitment will see it coming back to one to 500, which at that number is nothing to be proud of.

No one wants to live in a police state but people have a right to feel safe and our ratio of cops is low by international standards. The ratio in downtown Brisbane for example is one to 160 people.

In the United States it's generally around the same with even the holiday destination for some of us, Honolulu, having around twice as many cops to look after their population as we do.

Think about this. When was the last time you saw a cop on the beat in this country but when was the last time you saw one on a country road pointing a speed camera at you?

Okay getting the road toll down is important but so too is getting to the bottom of crime and that takes resources.

We'll hear Winston Peters cop number bid today which will up Labour's anti to eighteen hundred and we now await the Government's bid. With a chest beating $1.8 billion surplus, surely there's now enough cash in the kitty for more cops.

Barry Soper is the Political Editor for Newstalk ZB

- Newstalk ZB

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