Additional Government funding for police, courts and corrections

Tue 07 Feb 2017

The Government has announced additional funding for police, courts and corrections. In his State of the Nation speech on 2 February 2017, Prime ...

The Government has announced additional funding for police, courts and corrections.

In his State of the Nation speech on 2 February 2017, Prime Minister Bill English announced $503 million for a Safer Communities package.

Part of the funding will support an additional 1125 police staff over the next four years, including 880 frontline police officers. The media release from Police Minister Paula Bennett outlined the parts of the Safer Communities package related to policing:

  • "A new national 24/7 phone number for non-emergencies
  • 140 more officers for up to 20 regional and rural police stations so that 95 per cent of the population lives within 25 kilometres of a 24/7 police presence
  • 140 additional specialist investigators for child protection, sexual assault, family violence and other serious crime (66 of these have been previously announced [in the Safer Sooner family violence package])
  • 80 additional officers to target organised crime, gangs and methamphetamine
  • 20 additional ethnic liaison officers to support Chinese, Indian and other ethnic communities
  • The Eagle Helicopter will now be available around the clock with the response time of 10-15 minutes, at the moment it’s only available at pre-scheduled times for 1800 hours a year
  • 12 mobile policing units to provide policing services on the move where they’re most needed, including in smaller towns, rural areas and community events.
  • All 12 police districts will receive extra officers. Police will decide how many will go where, based on need."

The package also includes funding for Justice ($51 million) and Corrections ($64 million). This is outlined in the joint media release from Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams and Corrections Minister Louise Upston:

  • "$64 million for Corrections’ rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and more staff
  • A $16 million increase in legal aid
  • $21 million to support District Courts to handle more cases
  • $9 million for more judges."

The announcement is on top of the $1 billion committed to increase prison capacity in October 2016. NZ Herald reported that also meant an extra operating cost of another $1.5 billion to run the extra beds over five or six years.

Dr Elizabeth Stanley, Director at the Institute of Criminology School of Social and Cultural Studies at Victoria University, has raised concerns about the effectiveness of focusing on police and corrections:

"While we hope to rid ourselves of burglars, gang members and drug-takers, we have yet to come to the realisation that the solutions will not come from cop cars, 'out of home' care homes or prison cells at the bottom of the cliff, but from preventative measures at the top. Surely that extra three billion dollars destined for our police and prisons would be far better spent on demonstrably effective social policies instead?"

When asked about the impacts on Māori, English said:

"Māori will benefit directly from the kind of policies that we are announcing today. Māori are the among the most re-victimized [people] in the whole country. There is a group of around a thousand 5-year-olds each year who in later life are far more likely to commit crime, be on a benefit or go to jail and far less likely to succeed at school. If nothing changes each of these children will cost tax payers an average of around $270,000 over the next 30 years with some of them costing a million dollars."

In September 2016, Radio NZ reported that over the last five years, there has been a 25 percent decrease nationally in the number of lawyers providing family legal aid services, with reports that the situation was critical.

Related research

Researchers and activists have highlighted how increased policing, prosecution and imprisonment as the primary solution to violence against women can lead to further risks and re-victimisation for victims as well increased re-offending and state victimisation of perpetrators, particularly for marginalised populations.

In New Zealand, researchers have previously examined domestic violence conviction rates and custodial sentences for Māori and Pacific peoples. See the following articles from MAI Review journal (2009):

Selected additional media

Piling cash into boosting police numbers is pointless, and this graph proves it, The Spinoff, 30.03.2017

Call for extra funds for Victim Support as demand grows, Bay of Plenty Times, 13.02.2017

English: law, order issue now, Otago Daily Times, 03.02.2017

Big boost for police in PM's first major speech of the year as English aims to 'address dysfunction', NZ Herald, 02.02.2017

Commissioner welcomes significant investment in policing, Press release: NZ Police, 02.02.2017

Waikato in store for more than 50 new cops in Government package, Waikato Times, 02.02.2017

Image: Pixabay