Police recruits left in the dark over training delay, calls for Government action

Police recruits have expressed their disappointment at a lack of communication over delayed training “wings”, while calls for Government action grow louder.

Hundreds of recruits have been left in limbo after police were forced to put the brakes on training, as revealed by the Herald on Sunday.

Candidates of an upcoming training wing were initially scheduled to attend the Royal New Zealand Police College in February, but were told that they would be deferred until later in 2021 after recruitment requirements were reconsidered.

Police said last week a wing was now scheduled for May, but a police recruit, who contacted the Herald, said that information hasn’t been communicated.

“I was only made aware of a potential May training date after reading an article on (the Herald website), I was a bit disappointed that this was not communicated to me via recruitment,” they said.

“It has actually created a certain amount of anxiety too, as there is now uncertainty if I will even make it onto a training wing in May, due to the huge backlog of recruits and the limited placings.

“I am also aware that some recruits who have been in the process for a while may need to redo various stages of the process, as these have lapsed. This will set them even further back.”

Another recruit said they were “shocked” by the news.

“It makes you feel as if you’re not a priority to them. The communication to recruits and within the recruitment staff seems very touch-and-go,” they said.

A police spokesperson said in response that “applications shortlisted in the affected wing were contacted on 16 December in relation to the delay, by email and by phone in the following days”.

The Herald can confirm the email contained no information on when training would recommence and some recruits are yet to receive the follow-up call.

Police halted recruitment in June last year, because of an increase in applications during the Covid-19 lockdown, but assured those already in the pipeline that their training would continue.

Executive director of people and operations Kaye Ryan said attrition rates as low as 2 per cent meant there was now “less of a need for police recruits,” despite police falling more than 400 short of the 2017 Government Coalition Agreement goal of adding 1800 new police officers above attrition over three years.

Ryan said the growth target was always funded over a five-year period.

The Police Association, however, believe police had to stop training because they had got ahead of their five-year budget, urging that the money be brought forward so training could restart immediately.

The Herald asked Police Minister Poto Williams why the Government was not advancing money from the five-year budget to train more officers now. A Government spokesperson said any decisions wouldn’t yet be made public.

“Police management has confirmed planning for further recruitment and training wings will be undertaken later this month,” the statement read.

“Any consideration around the release of more funding would be subject to budget and Cabinet approval processes, and decisions would be made public after those processes are completed and agreed.”

Earlier Act’s Firearms Law Reform spokeswoman Nicole McKee described the Police Minister’s silence over the weekend as a “cop-out”.

“You have to wonder what on earth is going on? It’s got really nothing to do with the attrition rates, it’s about getting more frontline police out there to keep our communities safe and support the frontline police that are out there at the moment coming face to face with this violent crime,” McKee told the Herald.

“It’s imperative that they bring the money forward and they fund their promises and if they can’t do that they need to explain to the public why … they need to be answerable to the things that are occurring and the fact that they’re not keeping their promises in my thoughts mean that they actually need to stand up and explain why to all of New Zealand.”

Meanwhile, former Police Sergeant Peter Daly, who served 27 years in the police force, pointed to larger issues within the recruitment process.

After stepping down in 2015, he applied to rejoin before withdrawing his application three years later after being told no new spots were available.

He said the system was “dehumanising and broken”.

“It’s super frustrating when you’re on the outside trying to get in and you’re told there aren’t any vacancies when you know from everyone you’re speaking to that there are vacancies right across the organisation,” he said. “There are positions that they need to fill. There isn’t a single manager sitting there saying they have all the staff they would ever need or want.

“You’ve got all these people jumping through the hoops they’ve been told to jump through with really not good chances that they’re going to end up in the job.

“It leaves you feeling like the system is absolutely appalling.”

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