Frontline police at "breaking point" are swaying towards handing in their resignations amid fears the job will cost them their lives.
The despair among Mid and Far North officers was revealed in an email penned by a Northland constable.
The officer claims staff are unsafe on shifts and victims' calls for help either face long waits or fall completely by the wayside.
However, district commander Superintendent Tony Hill affirmed staff safety is front of mind and his door is always open.
"I am in regular communication with staff across the district. I am more than happy to speak with them directly if they have a matter they wish to discuss."
The officer begins his email to TodayFM by saying: "I have been wrestling with this for over a year now but have finally decided to risk my job."
The officer claims only four general duty police cover the Mid North – from Towai to Coopers Beach and Paihia to Waipoua Forest – and three the Far North.
"[...] staff do not feel safe and in fact, staff are NOT safe," the officer wrote.
"These are the police who run toward the gunfire. These are the police who run toward the domestic incidents."
The officer goes on to say Kāeo and Rawene stations are often unmanned and rely on Mid North staff to cover callouts on top of Russell when its officer is on leave.
They paint a picture of alarming night shifts where safety reasons dictate police should not work alone but barely have the capacity to double up.
The officer further alleged there had been many nights in Kaitāia with "so few" on-duty officers that Mid North staff had to cover the vast area.
"Staff complain that this is unsafe but their pleas fall on deaf ears. Staff complain that this is also unsafe for victims, but this falls on deaf ears," the officer claimed.
They wrote of burglaries, car thefts, damages and assaults going uninvestigated as stretched police didn't have enough time.
More alarmingly, the officer claimed domestic violence victims are being told to leave their homes if they can and police will get there as soon as possible - sometimes the next day.
"I hope this email does not end in me losing my job [...] I am looking forward to a good career in the police but something has to be done to fix this crisis."
New Zealand Police Association director for Waitematā and Northland districts Murray Fenton said for a member to reach out as they had was very courageous.
"Everything they've said rings true ... they're at a breaking point, some of them are saying that if things don't improve they will resign.
"They'd rather have no job to go to rather than turn up for work and not be safe or feel safe."
Fenton stays connected to Northland Police Association members via monthly meetings and written reports. He hears time and again how they are suffering as they travel long distances across the region in low numbers – sometimes alone at night.
One officer travelled 221km across Northland in a single shift, Fenton said.
The "tyranny of distance" inflamed the issue of a "siphoned" frontline where police are used to fill various other roles – such as within the frontline skills enhancement courses and the frontline safety improvement programme – without replacements.
The families and friends of Northland police officers deserved to know their loved ones were safe when they walk out the door for work, he stressed.
But more so, police members felt they were letting down their communities.
"We don't want our community to feel undervalued. We want to make a difference, we actually want our community to feel safe and be safe but we're struggling to do that," Fenton said.
As a result, the public trust in police was waning.
"People are now no longer bothering to report things to police unless your insurance company says to you, you must report it."
Reports of bullying were also affecting police morale as Fenton confirmed some members had spoken about the issue, which included favouritism.
Last year an Independent Police Conduct Authority report into bullying and culture in the country's police force found that 9 per cent of the 200 former and current police staff interviewed suffered sustained bullying.
And 40 per cent of participants reported they had experienced poor behaviour directed at them over a 12-month period.
Fenton said police had recently launched Kia Tū – a programme to prevent and address unacceptable behaviour within the force.
"In fairness to the [police] commissioner and the district commander when things happen they will try to address it as best as they can."
Fenton indicated a staff meeting with the district commander amid the email's ripple effects did little to buoy morale.
"[...] they've said, hey look we're not feeling safe, we don't have enough staff, we're under-resourced, when we turn up for work we'll often be working a nightshift on our own or maybe with a sergeant or acting sergeant if we are lucky – what can you do to help us.
"It's fallen on deaf ears. There's been no reassurance from the district commander that things are going to get better."
If anything, Fenton said, the situation will worsen if staff abandon the uniform.
But he empathised with the problem-solving task Hill faced.
"If our people are saying we're really struggling out there, we're hurting, then it's up to the district commander to then address that," Fenton said.
"I know the district commander and they're limited in what they can do because they're working with limited resources all the time."
Hill told the Advocate police had committed to improving its staff safety.
"I share the community and staff's concerns when there is an incident where there is violence, or the threat of violence, being used against my staff," he said.
"As an organisation, we have been working extremely hard to ensure that our staff, who put themselves in harm's way to protect the public, are equipped to meet the changes we are seeing in the policing environment."
He used the example of Northland being one of two regions to test a full version of the Tactical Response Model launched late last year.
The model aims to enhance the safety and capability of frontline police and communities.
Both Hill and Fenton separately said staff had provided positive feedback about the model's components.
Hill strongly countered the email's claim burglaries were not investigated.
"Police have proactively highlighted the work various workgroups have carried out as part of burglary investigations, which has seen search warrants terminated and arrests made," he said.
"Our staff working in these areas are passionate and committed to doing all they can for their community."
When it came to rural stations going unmanned or an apparent lack of police, Hill said police continued to deploy its resources to wherever the demand for service was.
Incidents involving risks – such as threats of violence against a person or property – took priority, he noted.
"In some instances it may mean a station in a rural area goes for a period physically unmanned while they are deployed to an incident."
Hill acknowledged that increased calls for service from a population expanding across Northland posed challenges for police - especially within remote communities.
"Again, I recognise that our district faces some geographical challenges with a vast region to cover, however, I want to acknowledge the outstanding work staff do each and every day they come to work."
Those challenges were being met with Northland receiving the highest percentage increase in police officers compared to other districts in the past five years.
Hill indicated they would be bolstered further by a handful of police vacancies in the Far North that will commence shortly.
The Advocate has contacted Police Minister Chris Hipkins and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster for comment.