I have lost confidence in our Police District Commander to keep our communities safe and execute the proper strategy to ensure that the police have the resources to both prevent crime and solve cases in Napier.
I have to admit, this is a very big call but I feel that the concerns of our diverse communities are not being taken seriously at all.
Before I outline why, let me provide a very brief background on global policing "best practice" as my research as Labour's police spokesman has led me to understand it.
Fundamentally, there are two streams to policing: community policing and traditional policing.
Community policing is about officers fully integrating themselves into the local community in a way that allows them to become an integral and important part of the community they serve.
Their functions are many but primarily crime prevention. Often the same officers are based at the community station for a number of years and end up becoming an important part of the community fabric outside of their police careers; for example coaching sports teams, sitting on local boards and championing local causes.
Traditional policing is about solving crime and putting the bad guys in front of judges. These officers are usually based in the main station but they are often out and about doing their job.
Obviously there is cross-over. For example, when the officers solving crime are seeking information this is provided by the community police because they are extremely connected into who is doing what, with whom and when.
Take away this community element and it makes it that much harder for those solving crime to get the results required to meet the community's expectation.
So the balance is important in order to provide for safe communities and put the bad guys behind bars. In Napier the balance has changed dramatically to the point where I don't think either sphere is being done well at all.
Let me provide a couple of examples.
The closing or downscaling of community stations and the slow winding down of constables on the beat.
Clive closed a couple of years ago and last year only three of the 76 burglaries in Clive were solved.
Police removed the non-sworn staff member from the Taradale station a couple of years ago. The presence of this person ensured the station remained open all day, and last year only 12 of the 202 burglaries in Taradale were solved.
Only 112 of the 1011 burglaries reported to the Napier police station were solved in 2015.
In April 2015 in Hawke's Bay there were 379 foot patrols whereas in April this year this number had reduced to 156.
We no longer have police cells in Napier and so (concerned police tell me) every time someone is arrested, a car has to take the prisoner over to Hastings, book them there and drive back to Napier to continue their patrol.
This can take up to an hour and I am told that this results in numerous times where there is not one car patrolling in Napier.
Now I find out that Napier's Armed Offenders Squad will no longer have their equipment in Napier, but stored in Hastings. This means that if there is an incident in Napier, AOS members will have to head to Hastings, get kitted out and drive back to Napier.
I calculate this will add around 20 to 30 minutes to the ability of the AOS to respond in a way that allows them to adequately deal with the situation.
This is simply wrong. And remember that the last time a policeman was shot and killed was in Napier?
So, in Napier we have gone from having a station that accommodates 81 staff, has cells to hold prisoners, has an AOS base and a good robust community policing infrastructure, to a city with a station the District Commander herself calls a "satellite station" which will hold a maximum of about 40 staff, has no police cells, no AOS capability and a severely depleted community policing capacity to the point where the councils of Napier and Hastings are forced to spend ratepayers' money hiring private security firms and counting on community volunteers to do the job our taxpayer money is paying trained police to do.
This is not policing excellence at all.
This whole hollowing out of policing in Napier is a misguided strategy that isn't serving the people of Napier (or the wider Bay) well at all.
I have written to the Police Commissioner expressing my views and concerns in very strong language in the hope that things can be turned around before it's too late.
- Stuart Nash is the Labour MP for Napier.
- Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org