INDEPENDENT NEWS

Police Amendment Bill - First Reading

Published: Fri 10 Aug 2001 10:35 AM
POLICE AMENDMENT BILL (No 2)
FIRST READING SPEECH – 9 AUGUST 2001
Hon GEORGE HAWKINS (Minister of Police):
I move, That the Police Amendment Bill (No 2) be now read a first time.
I intend to refer this Bill to the Law and Order Committee for consideration, with an instruction that the committee presents its final report on or before 2 October 2001.
It is a pleasure to introduce this Bill to the House, and I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all of the people who have worked on the Bill.
This Bill marks positive change in the Policing environment. Put simply, it is designed to modernise and clarify the provisions around two important aspects of the policing environment.
The key provisions relating to the New Zealand Police are currently contained in the Police Act and Police Regulations, which have both been amended on an "as and when required" basis over the years. As a result, we now have a legislative framework that is less than comprehensive.
In particular, the Act and Regulations are silent on key governance and accountability levers that are standard across the rest of the state sector; while at the other extreme, multi-layered and rigid provisions constrain Police’s ability to effectively manage its human resources.
While a comprehensive review of the Police Act is definitely on the long term agenda, this Bill is a significant step forward, designed to address the two weaknesses I have just identified.
I want to talk about each of those issues - firstly governance and accountability changes and secondly the human resources environment.
In relation to Police governance and accountability, the Bill aims to formalise and strengthen the current arrangements that apply.
The Bill clarifies the constitutional relationship between the Minister and the Commissioner. It puts into law what has been convention and practice. For the first time, the role and responsibilities of the Commissioner of Police (which are currently defined by convention) will be set out in writing. That will provide a point of reference in cases where it is unclear where responsibility lies.
The Bill also sets out the arrangements for the Commissioner’s and Deputy Commissioners’ appointment and the way they hold office. Importantly; it carries across some formal management accountability mechanisms and clarifies the State Services Commissioner’s role in this general area.
The Commissioner has two key roles – he is the equivalent of a "Chief Executive" and he is New Zealand's most senior law enforcer. In the first role the Commissioner should be accountable for his performance, but in his or her law enforcement role, the Commissioner must continue to act independently of the Government.
It is important to note that this Bill does not make any change to the operational independence of the Police.
The second aspect of the Bill is the modernisation of the Police employment environment.
The Government is determined to ensure that Police managers have the tools and the flexibility they need to efficiently appoint, transfer and deploy staff.
This Bill recognises that Police need the ability to deal efficiently with poor performance and lapses in discipline. That means simplifying and modernising the procedures and processes that currently apply.
One example of the antiquated employment provisions governing Police is the list of 42 disciplinary "offences" that police officers must not commit – like "feigning sickness or injury with a view to evading duty!" We are moving away from the idea of a police "force" with exhaustive lists of offences, and having recourse to a court martial system.
It is time to bring the Police employment arrangements into line with mainstream employment situations, as far as possible. That is why the Bill introduces a Code of Conduct for sworn members, which will establish acceptable standards of behaviour.
The principles underpinning the Human Resources changes are that the Police recognise the value of their employees and have a desire to be a "good employer", that there is a need to reflect the employment conditions that exist in the rest of the State Sector, and that there is a need for a simpler and more flexible human resources environment.
I am pleased that we have been able to approach both the governance and human resources changes in an inclusive and consultative way, and I am particularly encouraged that we have been able to work with service organisations including the Police Association on getting to this point with the human resources changes.
The Bill’s provisions strike a balance between putting in place clear and effective accountability arrangements to meet the standards that we expect to apply across the state sector, and preserving important constitutional conventions, particularly operational independence.
This government wants a legislative framework for Police that facilitates effective and efficient delivery of policing services, and fosters a culture within which the overall performance of the organisation is raised.
We are committed to building on the strengths of the Police by putting in place the building blocks that are necessary to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.
Today we are taking a major step in the right direction.
I commend the Bill to the House.

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