South Wairarapa residents want a live-in police officer in each town. PHOTO/FILE

Policing not a ‘one size fits all’ model

MARCUS ANSELM
marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

South Wairarapa campaigners remain unconvinced by last week’s move to 24/7 policing.

The new way of policing started last Monday with patrol cars now spread throughout Wairarapa 24/7 for a quicker response to emergencies.

However former Martinborough police officer Aidan Ellims hopes Wairarapa Police rethink their plan and install live-in officers in each town instead.

Ellims has collected more than 900 signatures for his campaign to instate sole charge constable in each of the towns, and a Facebook page backing the move has more than 200 followers.

A campaign in neighbouring Greytown raised more than 1300 names in favour of a permanent police presence.

Ellims said the new way of policing was an improvement.

“However, they aren’t replacing the policing service that the Martinborough or Greytown communities had prior to 2014 when policing was restructured in South Wairarapa.”

Police still have rural police stations – including sole charge or two or three officer stations – in 80 towns around New Zealand, according to an Official Information Act request Ellims made.

Police have cited health and safety concerns over the role of sole charge officers in rural town.

Ellims agreed and said health and safety had always been a concern for police.

Constables in sole charge stations are selected on merit and are senior and experienced officers who carry out risk assessments for every incident they attend.

“Health and safety is a concern for those constables and their supervisors as well, however, they are still out there working for their communities – that’s 80 out of 326 police stations or offices nationally.”

‘Having sole charge constables working back in Greytown and Martinborough will reduce the economic costs of crime, prevent crime, and provide safety, security, and reassurance to our communities.”

When talking to the Times-Age about introducing the measures, Wairarapa Police area commander Scott Miller said petitioners were “trying to go back to how we policed 20 years ago.”

Ellims said the crux of the issue was that policing for rural areas was being determined in cities in a “one size fits all” way.

“Rural communities feel a strong sense of ownership over the local police and it’s often expressed in what the police should be able to do for them.

“New Zealand police is strongly centralised.

“Many of those involved in law enforcement policy making live and work in the seat of government – ie Wellington – and most police policy has been formulated with the city in mind and it is often assumed that rural policing is the same as urban policing.”

Ellims also said that he had spoken to Featherston residents who shared the petitioners’ concerns about police response time.

The move to 24/7 policing was announced last month after a public meeting in Greytown.

The new shift patterns came into effect last Monday and would be filtering through over the next two weeks.