Strategic shifts made by the New Zealand Police are starting to attract international attention. In particular, a bold new policing model developed in 2009/10, which formed the centerpiece of an ambitious “Policing Excellence” transformation program, has been credited with significant reductions in crime and victimization, decreases in ‘downstream’ pressure on the criminal justice system, and reinvestment of freed-up officer time into further harm-prevention work.
Guided by a “Prevention First” operating strategy, a more mobile New Zealand Police workforce has achieved impressive productivity gains, and helped build enhanced public trust and confidence. During his presentation at The 2018 Public Safety Summit: Leadership in Turbulent Times, the principal architect of this new policing model, Commissioner Mike Bush, introduced his organization’s shift from a prosecution to a prevention mindset, and from a largely offender-centric approach to one where the needs of victims are at the center of policing.
The New Zealand police department has approximately 12,500 officers serving 4.7 million people, and is on pace to increase its size to 14,500 over the near term. The department is unique in that it serves the whole country and doesn’t operate on a tiered system (e.g. federal, county, municipal). Instead, they are able to operate without some of the jurisdictional hurdles that can complicate public safety in other countries.
In 2008, the police department was under significant pressure. The Global Financial Crisis put a crunch on government budgeting, which meant fewer resources for policing. The department was also under public and political scrutiny for questionable tactics during a high profile anti-terror operation. At the time, the New Zealand police department was also reliant on a prosecution model of policing, which required a high level of resources, but was not working well. The public had questions, there were increased reports of crime, and the department had few obvious wins it could point to.