The number of police officers in Northland is increasing after reaching very low levels during the pandemic. Photo / NZME
Thirteen police officers in Northland left their jobs in the first eight months of this year and the bulk of them were based in Whangārei.
The police attrition rate in Northland in the 12 months
to January this year was 1 per cent – or four officers – but that number more than quadrupled from then up to August, rising to 17.
The figures are contained in data provided in response to a parliamentary question from National’s Whangārei list MP Dr Shane Reti.
Of the 17, seven were based in Whangārei, four in Kaitaia, three in Kerikeri, one each in Kamo, Mangonui and in the Northland Child Protection Team.
The MP said one of the main reasons officers were leaving was due to increased violence toward them, with the number of serious assaults on Northland police rising over the last five years.
“There’s increasing danger and there’s that sense we have that police don’t feel that they have the tools to do what they would like to do, what they’re best at doing,” Reti said.
“It is things like police pursuit policy, youth offending policies. They’re starting to feel they’re not adequately equipped to do the best job. And of course, there’s not enough of them.”
Significantly more police officers across the country are leaving the job now than they were last year, data showed.
National turnover rates almost doubled from 2.86 per cent in the 12 months to May 2021 to 4.78 per cent in the following year. The rate rose to 4.9 per cent in the year to August this year.
Another question from Reti revealed the number of police graduates assigned to the Northland district fell from 46 in 2018 to 15 in 2021.
Up until the end of August this year, 15 graduates were sent to Northland.
Police Minister Chris Hipkins said the decrease was due to the unusually high number of recruits sent to Northland when Labour first got into Government.
“The number of police in Northland has already increased nearly 19 per cent under Labour, that’s 65 more frontline staff over and above attrition since we came into Government,” Hipkins said.
“A large proportion of graduates were sent to Northland immediately under this policy to address a shortage in frontline staff left by the previous government’s under-investment in police. That’s why the numbers are frontloaded.
“This will increase further still through our commitment to funding 1800 more police.”
Attrition had returned to normal levels after a “sustained reduction” during Covid-19, Hipkins said.
“In Northland, attrition is lower than the average across the police workforce. Police has one of the lowest levels of attrition of any employer in New Zealand.”
The Government was on track to reach its target of 1800 more police officers by June next year, Hipkins said.
A total of 17 officers left the police in Northland in the 12 months to the end of August 2022, up from nine in the previous year.
Reti said there were not enough police officers in Northland and there were issues with how they were distributed.
“We are the fastest-growing region and on a per-capita basis the numbers should be escalating, not going down,” he said.
“When they have incidents in Paihia and the nearest constable is in Russell, that’s a problem.”
Despite the Government recruiting extra police officers, Reti said the effect of this was not visible on the front line.
“If you ask any of the local retailers who have been ram-raided, that’s sure as heck not their observation, or indeed any of the retailers in the [Whangārei] CBD.”
When asked about attrition rates, police declined to provide new comment, but referred the Advocate to a statement provided for an earlier story.
In the statement, Acting District Superintendent Justin Rogers said 25 additional staff had been sent to Northland this year.
“Overall police has a very low attrition rate and people leave the organisation for a variety of reasons, but I note that our district’s attrition rate is currently sitting below the national rate,” Rogers said.
“Northland’s geography and the location of some of our more remote communities are a challenge for us. Our staff working in these areas are passionate and committed to doing all they can for their community.”
Rogers said Northland had received the highest percentage increase in police officers of any district in the past five years.