Last week, Bryce Edwards argued police were failing the public. Police Commissioner Mike Bush says the force is earning trust every day

I challenge Dr Bryce Edwards to get out from behind his desk and see first-hand the outstanding work 12,000 New Zealand Police staff do every day.

I have no doubt this would give him a better-informed picture of modern policing, rather than re-visiting a selective handful of high-profile issues dating back over the past 50 years.

Space does not allow me to respond point-by-point to his assertions, nor am I in a position to re-litigate the historic cases.

I can, however, say he grossly misrepresents New Zealand Police, particularly our victim-focused frontline staff who work tirelessly every day to prevent crime and deal with the worst behaviour in our communities.

Advertisement

Police staff make difficult decisions every day while displaying courage and resilience.

On behalf of the communities they serve, they deal with situations which, thankfully, most of the public don't have to experience.

Every year police respond to 1.94 million phone calls for advice or assistance and about 772,000 emergency calls.

I am proud to say the overwhelming majority of these are dealt with in line with our core values of professionalism and empathy.

This is why New Zealand Police has levels of trust and confidence that are the envy of most equivalent overseas jurisdictions.

This is so important to us that we continually measure public perceptions of police using the independent research company Gravitas.

The overall result for last year showed "high" or "very high" trust and confidence at 78 per cent, from a sample of 9260 members of the public.

But don't just take our word for it.

Advertisement

Recent reports from the State Services Commission and the independent research company UMR ranked police highly on public perceptions.

The police force was the second highest Government institution in which the public had "a great deal or quite a lot of confidence", according to UMR.

As Commissioner I am not complacent about these numbers. We can only achieve the best outcomes for communities - that they be safe and feel safe - if we have the consent of the public.

This is why our overall vision is to have the trust and confidence of all.

We must earn that trust every day, and be continually focused on achieving it.

Trust is also built on owning and being accountable for our mistakes. We don't claim to get it right every time and our staff are only human. We apologise and work hard to put things right when we get it wrong.

Police is rightly one of the most scrutinised of any Government agency, be it from the courts, Government, media, the public or other agencies, especially the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

I reject outright any suggestion that police is "thumbing its nose" at the IPCA. The authority is vital in helping us learn from our mistakes and continuously improve.

I must also challenge two other points Edwards raised.

Does he really think that a 100 per cent resolution rate for murder is just a "box-ticking" way for police to "prove themselves"?

I'd say it is something the public should rightly expect.

And are 23,000 incoming social media contacts from the public every week just a product of "slick marketing" as he seems to think?

In my view, our 40-odd Facebook pages are vital tools for engaging with local communities to prevent and solve crime.

Edwards may be one of the minority who just don't like police. I have no issue with that and we have broad shoulders when it comes to criticism.

But I take issue when he undermines and misleads about the good work of modern police staff.

I will leave the final word to a young constable who contacted me directly after reading the article.

He represents the New Zealand Police of today, not 50 years ago.

"As a cop who is 2-years in, I'm learning to tolerate negative and inaccurate media reporting. But this article is the worst I've read since joining.

"It just bugs me that my colleagues and I bust our guts to catch criminals and help victims, yet all we get is negative publicity. Having said that I'm still loving the job."