Our police are quite simply amazing. I had a few different roles while in politics but Minister of Police was one I particularly loved as I got to see up close the dedication and commitment of our men and women in blue to protect and serve.
The fact that there is a rise in violent and retail crime and gang numbers have risen 40 per cent since 2017 is not a reflection of their work. It is a reflection of the lack of leadership and setting of priorities.
Our towns and cities are seeing a marked increase in intimidating behaviour at best and complete lawlessness at worst.
A couple of years ago the informal advice was not to walk around central Wellington or Auckland alone after dark – now that extends to during the day.
The increased presence of gang members throughout New Zealand is real and can be seen and felt.
The Minister of Police denies there is an increase and is not across the details of her responsibilities.
Yes, police quite rightly have unique powers when it comes to the operations of daily policing but it is a minister and government that make laws and give them their powers.
Instead, this minister helps her police commissioner avoid scrutiny, hides behind operational powers and doesn't seem to care about people's safety.
We need to harass and disrupt gangs so that they can't continue their rampant unlawful behaviour. And there are mechanisms that the Government could introduce that would help them.
Currently, they have the Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Bill (FPOs) in select committee.
This legislation is based on the Australian model, which introduced them as a key measure to combat organised crime, particularly among gangs.
It gives police wide-ranging powers to conduct warrantless searches of a person, vehicle and/or premises.
The NZ Government has come up with a watered-down version that does not give our police those powers.
Our Police Association in their submission stated that "the legislation as proposed will not provide police with the same ability as their Australian counterparts to disrupt those dangerous people who will be the subject of the orders".
Yet again the Government want it to look like they are doing something but in reality, it will make no real difference.
Three years ago National proposed having a specialist unit within police whose role it would be to crack down and disrupt gang activity.
It works in NSW and it is badly needed here.
Strike Force Raptor works in a proactive way. If someone is punched by a gang member, officers from Raptor take over the case.
Tips are followed up by Raptor, houses and motorcycles are raided for firearms and drugs.
If gang members don't pay their traffic fines, Raptor follows up to ensure their driver's licences are taken away.
Raptor checks gang clubhouses and uses council rules to shut them down for shoddy workmanship or unconsented work.
If alcohol is served at the pad, Raptor invokes legislation so the gangs need to have a liquor licence.
Raptor officers check benefit payments and tax records, revealing hundreds of "bikies" claiming taxpayer assistance they aren't entitled to.
Unfortunately, we got caught up in the stupid name instead of recognising that with the right powers, the right resources and direction from the Police Commissioner and Minister it could keep us all safer.
NSW Criminal Groups Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Robert Critchlow said, "We'll be kicking down doors, we'll be tipping people over, we'll be talking to them, we'll be harassing them within the bounds of the law to make sure they know we are there."
Now that's who I want in charge – I wonder if he is looking for a job?