A new wing of police recruits will start their training on Monday - but they will be doing things a bit differently than usual.
The 20 up-and-coming cops will train exclusively in Auckland, far from the traditional Police College experience in Wellington.
The recruits are a trial wing being run from Tamaki Makarau in a bid to bolster police numbers in the city and attract recruits who have been held back or put off joining the organisation in the past due to the training being held in Wellington.
Royal New Zealand Police College Inspector Iain Saunders said the pilot came about following direct feedback from potential recruits, whom for many said that moving to Wellington for 16 weeks was a real barrier to joining police - particularly those with young children or family or personal commitments.
"We're hoping to unlock a group of people who haven't been available to police before - like people with family commitments for whom four months away from home is a stretch," he said.
Police are aiming to increase the overall staff numbers over the next three years to meet our objective of being the safest country, and to deliver on the Government's promised increase of frontline officers.
Saunders said Auckland was the biggest and most demanding policing area in the country and it made sense to recruit police from the city who could go straight in and work after training without having to worry about relocating their whole lives and getting to know a place they've never lived or worked before.
And, people with a knowledge of specific parts of Auckland and they way those communities operate would also help boster the city's policing effort.
"It's an opportunity to look at how we can do things better for the Tamaki Makarau population," he said.
"We're pretty confident this will be a better way to service Auckland.
"We believe having local people will lead to a more stable workforce in Auckland - obviously Auckland is growing fast and we can predict some future demand so we'd like to have some people from Auckland to police Auckland."
The training programme in Auckland and Wellington will be the same - but the delivery would be slightly different in the north.
Firstly, the training programme will be 19 weeks rather than 16.
Saunders said that was to counter the fact that Auckland recruits were not living on campus and travel to and from training had to be factored in.
They would also learn things in a slightly different order to Wellington.
"It's different in terms of the order of the course, but the learning programme is identical," Saunders said.
"It's the exact same content for things like firearms training, driving and defensive tactics.
"The difference is that they will get to go to their homes and whanau at the end of each day."
For the first few weeks the recruits would attend training at Unitec in Mt Albert, with the final weeks of their field training based out of the North Shore Policing Centre in Mairangi Bay.
"Auckland already has all the facilitates required for the recruits to carry out their tactical training, including driving, firearms, and defensive tactics," said Saunders.
The wing of 20 is made up of all Auckland residents but Saunders said in future it could be opened up to recruits in Northland, Hamilton and the Bay of Plenty so they could train closer to home.
And, there was scope to run wings from other locations - like the South Island.
"Obviously the intent of the trial is to test the concept and make sure the gains we make from it are worth the investment," Saunders explained.
"We're pretty confident this will be a better way to service Aucklanders who want to stay in Auckland.
"It's just a different approach and if it works well in Auckland there's no reason it won't work elsewhere."
Saunders said if the Auckland wing became permanent, recruits would still have the option of training in Wellington.
"In terms of recruitment, it's just giving people another choice - another point of entry into police.
"People who are young parents, people with ailing parents or family members, people who are a critical part of their family and it's a bridge too far for them to come to Wellington for four months.
"We're hoping to unlock a lot of people who feel like they have been locked out of the business - we're hoping that this will open them up to careers in the police."
Saunders said the new approach was "incredibly exciting" for police - who have not trained a wing away from Wellington since 1974.
"We just want to offer it as another option," he said.
Cost-wise, the Auckland wing would not dent the police budget too much.
Saunders said with recruits living at home rather than a barracks meant no residential or meal costs.
It also meant police saved money as they did not have to fly the recruits up and down the country for training.
Trainers coming up from Wellington to deliver the course would need to be housed and have their travel covered, but Saunders said financially, the trial wing balanced out well.
If it became permanent, trainers would be based in Auckland - creating new jobs for senior staff.
"We have to think ahead to our future and our future demands," Saunders said.
"We really want to be able to have workforce diversity and open police up to everyone who is suitable.
"We have to be modern in our thinking around how and where we train - and not be stuck in the bricks and mortar of Wellington .
"It's different, it's new - we're just trying to prepare for the demand that's coming in the future.
"With our recent recruitment drive to get more people to sign up, we are really keen to see if this initiative can assist us in increasing our numbers by reducing some of the barriers preventing those who would make excellent police officers from joining up."
FOLLOW THE NEW RECRUITS
Section 5 of Wing 314 will begin training at Unitec in Auckland on Monday.
Some of the recruits will be sharing their journey through their Royal New Zealand Police College.
To keep up with their progress visit the Auckland police Facebook pages:
For more information on joining the police click here.
WHO CAN BE A COP?
All you need to apply is to:
• Be at least 17 years old (must be 18 before you can start at police college).
• Hold a full NZ driver licence.
• Be a New Zealand or Australian Citizen or NZ Permanent Resident.
• Be available to attend constabulary recruitment assessments in person.
• Be physically fit and in excellent health.
• Notify constabulary recruitment staff of any previous criminal or traffic convictions (including warnings, court appearances, and diversions).
• Provide police clearance for any country (other than NZ) that you have worked or resided in for longer than three months.
Police say the bottom line is that to become a cop "you need a strong desire to help people in your community".
"You'll need to be able to make tough judgement calls, build community networks, and instil confidence in those around you.
"Our role can highly influence the lives of many in our communities.
"Hence our constabulary recruitment staff will also be looking for the following qualities throughout the constabulary recruitment process:
• Excellent communication skills
• Empathy for others
• Problem-solving abilities
"Solving crime and preventing crashes is not just about answering the question 'who?'
"It's just as important to look at the broader question of 'why?'.
"You'll need an ability to understand the communities you serve, and more importantly, the ability to identify and examine the problems that lead to trouble."