Pike River families say they still trust police

By Jarrod Booker

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn offers support to a distraught family member of the 29 miners trapped in the Pike River coal mine last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn offers support to a distraught family member of the 29 miners trapped in the Pike River coal mine last year. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Families of Pike River mine victims say they are among more than three-quarters of the public with confidence in the police despite strong criticism over its handling of the mine tragedy.

Latest survey results show that public confidence in police has increased to 77 per cent, up from 75 per cent and 69 per cent the previous two years.

Police deputy commissioner Mike Bush said: "It's likely that things like our response to the Pike River tragedy and the Christchurch earthquakes will have impacted on public perceptions of police".

The fallout from the Pike River tragedy last November, where 29 workers died in underground explosions, saw search and rescue head Superintendent Gary Knowles deliver a tearful apology for police shortcomings in how the victims' families were dealt with.

"I can understand your criticism," he said to the families of the 29 dead men at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the tragedy.

"But at the end of the day I did my best."

Families' spokesman Bernie Monk, who lost his son Michael, 23, in the mine, said they still had every confidence in the police.

"A lot of people were put under stress in that situation and....no-one was up to that magnitude of a disaster. Mistakes were made by everyone I think. (Police) were the first to admit to me that mistakes were made. An apology was given, we accepted it, and we moved on."

Police had made necessary changes and "we are all heading in the right direction", Mr Monk said.

Mr Bush said it was encouraging to see improved perceptions of police activity in communities such as parts of Counties Manukau, where neighbourhood policing teams had been in place for some time.

In Counties Manukau, peoples' positive perceptions of police responsiveness to the needs of the community had risen from 70 per cent in 2009/10 to 77 per cent in 2010/11.

Meanwhile, the health and safety and systems at the Pike River mine will be under the spotlight when the Royal Commission of Inquiry resumes next month. It will be February before the immediate cause of the explosion at the mine is examined.

PERCEPTIONS OF POLICE

Trust and confidence in police:

Positive 77 per cent; Some trust and confidence 18 per cent; Negative 5 per cent

Police are responsive to the needs of my community:

Positive 78 per cent; Neutral 14; Negative 6 per cent

Police are involved in activities in my community:

Positive 68 per cent; Neutral 18 per cent; Negative 7 per cent

DEALINGS WITH POLICE

Overall satisfaction:

Positive 82 per cent; Neutral 10 per cent; Negative 8 per cent

Treated fairly:

Positive 89 per cent; Neutral 6 per cent; Negative 5 per cent

Good value for tax dollars spent:

Positive 74 per cent; 15 per cent; 10 per cent

*Research conducted by Gravitas Research & Strategy Ltd - 9,973 interviews conducted by telephone survey from July 2010 to June 2011.

- NZ Herald

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