Mark Mitchell: Strong direction for policing and law and order

Line of Defence Magazine - Summer 2023-24

Mark Mitchell

Police will be given the tools they need to tackle gangs, youth crime, and violence, and resources to be refocused onto core policing activities, writes Police Minister Mark Mitchell.

It has been an absolute privilege to be appointed Police Minister. Crime has been increasing across our communities under the Labour Government and I am committed to turning this around with a strong focus on law and order.

Having had a policing career, I know how important it is to have the resources and numbers focused on the frontline.

Before politics, I was on the management board of a global logistics company and Chief Executive Officer of a security and risk management company. I was very involved in emergency logistics response teams that acted as the private sector’s first responders into countries hit by natural disasters.

“We want New Zealanders to feel safe in their homes, communities, and workplaces. The previous government was clearly taking us in the wrong direction.”

As outgoing Defence Minister in the last National government, I enjoyed having the opportunity to contribute to this magazine, and am happy to connect again as Minister of Police.

National’s tough on crime approach is well recognised. We want New Zealanders to feel safe in their homes, communities, and workplaces. The previous government was clearly taking us in the wrong direction.

I have been clear in my letter of expectations to the Police Commissioner of what I expect.

I am committed to backing the Police, so they have the tools they need to restore law and order in our communities.

In our first 100 days we’ve committed to:

  • introducing legislation to ban gang patches, stop gang members gathering in public, and stop known gang offenders from communicating with each other,
  • giving Police greater powers to search gang members for firearms and make gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing, 
  • beginning work to crack down on serious youth offending,
  • beginning to repeal and replace Part 6 of the Arms Act 1983 relating to clubs and ranges. 

For too long, gangs have been allowed to behave as if they are above the law. They have been taking over public roads and spaces and intimidating and assaulting innocent members of the public. There is no tolerance for this kind of behaviour and our new laws will support Police to take action against it.

View this article in the Line of Defence Magazine Summer 2023-24 downloadable digital edition…

I have been impressed over the past few weeks already by the approach Police have shown around policing gang gatherings and the proactive approach to those breaking the law. I thank our frontline for that work. I know they are committed to protecting our communities and it’s my role to support them in that work.

Youth crime has also been on the increase, so Police will have a strong focus on targeting youth crime. Violent youth offenders must be held accountable for their actions. 

I also expect to see Police continue to work effectively with partner agencies to ensure youth offenders have pathways and targeted support so they can leave crime behind and turn their lives around. We will be implementing our military youth academies next year.

I also don’t expect our Police to be undertaking roles that are not for them, such as managing mental health. In some instances, Police will need to attend where there is threat to life and threat of harm. However, these incidents require trained mental health practitioners.

Our Police need to be able to do their jobs of fighting crime and disorder. My expectation is that Police will work closely with chief executive across partner agencies to identify where Police resources can be refocused back onto core policing.

I will also work with my Cabinet colleagues to deliver other changes across the justice system that will support Police in holding offenders to account.             

This includes amendments to the Sentencing Act to provide real consequences for offenders, introducing an offence for anyone who injures or kills someone with a coward punch, considering a youth justice demerit point system, reforming fleeing driver legislation, and getting advice on the threshold amount for seizing gang assets under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act.

This Government has a serious agenda for law and order and we are determined to deliver. Everybody deserves to feel safe and be able to go out in their communities or workplaces without fear of harm or intimidation.