There is not one police officer in the country who has a "bit of spare time" as John Key claims they do, says the New Zealand Police Association.
The president of the Police Association, Greg O'Connor, said police were definitely very busy and he did not know one cop "without a file to work on".
"Crime rates coming down does not mean that every police officer out there is not busy with the crime we have," he said.
In the 12 months ending June this year, crime rates fell by 7 per cent. Serious assaults, murders, drug offences and family violence offences all dropped, but there was a 12.4 per cent increase in sexual assaults and related offences, and a spike in the number of acts endangering other people.
The number of murders - 34 - was the lowest since records began in 1986, and almost half the previous total of 65 for the year to June 2010.
Mr O'Connor said despite the drop in crime, which was in part due to their work preventing offences, "there is no police officer anywhere in the country who hasn't got anything to do".
He thought that if Mr Key had the opportunity, he would not repeat the comment about police having spare time. "It's a comment that if he thought about it, he wouldn't make it again ... We all know it's an election time and it was an unfortunate off the cuff comment that I think even he will know that it does not reflect the reality of these things," he said.
"I saw the media comments and I thought that basically that's a bit silly ... but I'm sure Key wouldn't say that again if he'd thought them through. I think it was a somewhat flippant remark."
When asked last night if Mr Key stood by his comment, a spokeswoman said: "The Prime Minister's comment was a response to an assertion from a journalist that crime rates are rising when in fact they are falling."
Mr O'Connor said Mr Key's complaint about the recording of his private conversation with Act candidate John Banks left police between a "rock and a hard place".
Crimes were prioritised by how serious they were, he said. Murders and sexual offences were investigated before robberies and somewhat lesser crimes, but the "teapot tape" complaint had become a priority for police.
"If they don't investigate, they'll be accused of being political. If they do investigate it and don't investigate them properly, they'll be accused of being political. And if they investigate it to the nth degree, which they really need to do, they'll also be accused of being political."
"Police are very careful that we support policy and not politicians. We don't want to get dragged into this either."