DISCUSSION FORUM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

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					               DISCUSSION FORUM:
              COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Meeting Room WA608, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006

Chair:
Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

Attendees (25):
Members of AUT's School of Social Sciences, Institute of Public Policy; a member of the
University of Auckland, Faculty of Law; a member of the School of Social and Cultural
Studies at Massey University, Albany; portfolio leads for city safety and community
services from three local authorities; representatives from Grey Power, New Zealand
Maori Wardens Association, several Auckland-based migrant support organisations and
other specialist ethnic organisations within Auckland; a local Police District Commander;
other members of Police; plus members of the Police Act Review Team.



Opening questions put to the participant were ones not asked in Issues Paper
4: what is "community engagement"? And why should communities want to
engage with police?
• The first speaker expressed the view that over the last 20 years there has been a
  destruction of communities: people used to be able to express their concerns; there
  was a separate Traffic Department; and people actually belonged somewhere
  through geographic locations. There has been a loss of this sense of community with
  the growth of huge territorial local authority (TLA) areas. No one lives in Auckland or
  the North Shore; they live in Papatoetoe and Otahuhu.                 In addition, the
  amalgamation of Police and the TSS has been a contributor to this loss of
  community.
• Considering this situation, what is expected of the Police? It is difficult to focus on
  community interests when people no longer represent individual communities.
  Recognition was given to the difficulties police encounter while trying to connect to
  those who have influence in local communities.
• A Franklin District Council representative stated that geographically stretched areas
  present challenges for connecting with communities. Another speaker was of the
  view that making Auckland into one big city would make the issue worse.
• Community engagement involves various tasks, including getting correct information
  that goes beyond Police statistics.
• Another speaker voiced a hope that consideration will be given      to what does not
  comprise the Police role, as well as what does, stating 'It's       great to see the
  Commissioner of Police on the Taskforce on Family Violence, and     that sort of thing,
  but it's questionable whether police on the ground need to be so    deeply involved in
  all these different issues or working groups.'
• A Waitakere Ethnic Board member believes police are engaging well with Maori and
  Pacific people, but not as well for new migrant groups. To address this, Police could
  set up informal ethnic community boards - to identify issues and highlight services;
  and/or set up Police-ethnic community meetings, which include a commitment to
  listening, at regular times. Setting up communication channels will aid in avoiding or
  resolving miscommunications. Police should be trained to be aware of major cultural
  differences when dealing with new migrants.
• There have been claims of Police discrimination against ethnic Chinese. Police has
  tried to recruit more Chinese police staff. But even Asian police dealing with them
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  are not patient enough - unlike Maori or Pacific police. 'They need to be trained to
  smile and not treat them as criminals.'
• For the past two years the Auckland City Police District has had an Asian Advisory
  Board, which discusses issues of mutual concern. It has delivered more than 50
  seminars to new migrant groups, and has also done well at recruiting - in last two
  yeas, there have been 27 Asian police recruits from Auckland City. It is currently
  looking to do more.
• When engaging communities, the range of community interests should be reflected
  (not just geographic and political, but also the collective interest).
• An Auckland City Councillor who was on the Law and Order Committee stated that
  this year it has been called the Committee of Public Safety and Community Order.
  This renaming recognises the role of the community, and that such issues are not
  solely the domain of the police. Police cannot do everything. While many people
  feel there needs to be community involvement - where they are able to express their
  views and be heard - this is different to community engagement.
• There are differences between political boundaries and cultural boundaries - meaning
  there is a need for liaison between TLAs. Otahuhu is an example. It has worked
  successfully countering youth problems and graffiti. There could be improvements in
  making the liaison more seamless.
• A representative of Bangladeshi community noted that new migrants come from
  cultures that hold an active mistrust of police. There is a need to break down barriers
  about coming forward to police. This raises issues of cultural conception, making the
  orientation of the wider police force important, and does not involve simply
  increasing the awareness of Asian police officers.
• There is a lack of information about what the police can do, and what their priorities
  are (e.g., dwelling burglaries). This creates a gap between the community and
  police. The first question of investigating officers is often 'do you have house and
  contents insurance?' People who have been burgled are looking for consolation first,
  rather than transactional questions.
• A member of the Safe Waitakere Team spoke about understanding the concept of
  'community engagement'. It goes further than consultation - it is more actively
  worded, and entails getting the community involved in guiding where resources are
  deployed, at all tier levels - from grass roots to the top tier.
• A sociologist from Massey University was struck by the tension within the perception
  that policing is a democratic activity, but that there is also a persistent anxiety about
  capture by various interest groups in communities (e.g., interest groups, or perhaps
  the majority group). The tension exists between police needing the support of the
  communities and needing to be the Police, but then also needing to be upfront about
  avoiding capture by particular interests.
• A speaker noted that the forum is an advisory one on how to engage better with
  communities, meaning it might be helpful to have people who have 'been there done
  that' involved. If this is a problem area for the Police, then it may be useful to have
  a reference group on the issue.
• Issues Paper 4 was described as being very adult focussed, and that attention should
  be paid to finding the best methods to engage children and young people.
• Officer in Charge, Otara said it would be a struggle to find an area in Police which did
  not have formalised groups in place to channel the voices of the community into
  policing decisions. From his viewpoint there is not a problem with community
  engagement, but rather that difficulty arises when people cannot see engagement
  happening, and so assume that it is not happening.
• Another speaker was against anything going into the new Act that would hinder the
  powers and freedoms of the Police, as happened with the Human Rights Act. He


Notes from a forum on Police-community engagement, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006
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  wanted less bureaucracy, including the right to silence removed; the empowerment,
  and not disempowerment, of the Police; more community support for the Police; and
  to avoid the 'paralysing provisions' on consultation found under the Local
  Government Act.
• The institutional way of consulting was addressed. The major agencies could
  streamline the consultation process so that information could feed into multiple
  working practices, as happens in the local government consultation process. This
  avoids replication of consultation. A senior Police commander stated this mechanism
  is used in the legislated framework for community outcomes planning with LTCCPs.

What do communities want from engagement?
• There is a large range of information of engagement, and an assumption that
  engagement is a good thing. But what would different forms of engagement for
  different communities look like? It was noted that local flexibility is important - what
  works in Devonport might not work in Otara.
• Would it be helpful or unhelpful to write it into an Act of Parliament? It appears that
  Police is being eminently sensible, and any Act should make the work of Police
  easier, not harder.
• If a police force is community orientated, then it would not take much to change to a
  zero tolerance approach. If there were requirements for a consensual policing style
  and strong community connections written into the Police Act, then the approach
  could be avoided.
• It was stated that two issues should be kept in mind: first, discussion of the present
  situation must be aimed at preparing for the future; and second, issues of perception
  should be dealt with by having regard to the target audience.
• Because of the widespread view that Police is one of the sole agencies that will
  provide answers, there is a significant demand for information which is not readily
  available. The Police Act could be used to help clarify boundaries as to what
  information the Police are able to provide. People requiring information that is not
  covered could then be referred to the appropriate agency, reducing police workload.
• Another aspect raised was how much community engagement can achieve. While
  there is a lot that communities can do to tackle street violence, which results in
  direct benefits, there are other issues are not susceptible to communities getting
  directly involved in the problem solving.
• Another speaker made the point that information flows need to be two-way. The
  word "involvement" is more appropriate than "engagement". It was further noted
  that community groups are at the heart of this, being the ones who know where the
  bonds and leverage points are in communities.
• From CAB: Police faces a problem with the refugee community - language barriers
  create a lack of understanding. The police should take active ownership of this
  problem, instead of expecting the community to do so.
• Chair: the themes of 'community engagement' raised in the first section of the
  discussion forum included whether police are equally addressing all communities,
  and how information gets communicated. There was much discussion of culture:
  both the varying immigrant cultures, and the Police culture. And the need for
  training in understanding cultures.
• There was concern at the view that legislation is required to build relationships: 'not
  sure you need to have a law saying that you need to do this engagement thing'. A
  speaker believed Police were already effectively engaging communities.
• Another concern was that a legislative framework might take the focus off 'where the
  rubber meets the road'. Engagement works well now, and the human dimension is
  well-recognised.


Notes from a forum on Police-community engagement, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006
                                                  4


• It was noted that the value in legislation can come from it being a safeguard and an
  accountability mechanism, rather than as a starting point. If there is a legislative
  statement of intent, then it becomes 'something you can turn to and say I want
  some engagement, and bring it on'. It can ensure a community orientated approach
  to policing.
• Conversely, it was argued that legislating for engagement is unnecessary, as
  evidenced by the current training and practice of Police, the continuation of which
  the speaker was confident. Thus the need for legislation was questioned.
• With regards to the accountability aspect of legislating for engagement, it was asked
  whether there would be a penalty for non-engagement by the Police.
• One speaker noted this issue should not take up the valuable time of Parliament, and
  another suggested the issue be left alone.
• Another thought the Act should be an endorsement for police to continue their
  current practice, rather than anything which creates 'an accountability drain and
  bureaucratic box-ticking'.
• It was questioned whether engagement was already Police policy included in the
  Statement of Intent, in which case there would be sufficient accountability.
  Commanders spend at least 50% of their time engaging with different sections of the
  community, coming at the expense of visiting local stations.
• A compromise may be to include engagement requirements within a Code of
  Conduct. Under the Local Government Act, there are obligations to consider public
  safety issues, which can provide a duty to engage.
• Another stated that this view seems to rely on a benign view of communities.
  Communities may have self-serving attitudes which may not be in the wider public
  good. Thus if the middle classes got up in arms on an issue such as de-prioritising
  speeding offences, Police could have a legal responsibility to give this view due
  recognition.
• Discussion then turned to questions 4 and 5 in Issues Paper 4. Views were mixed on
  whether police volunteer roles should be formalised in legislation.
• Some would rather see more volunteering in other sectors, rather than in police, who
  are one small component. Others took the view that if resources were used more
  effectively, there might not be a need for volunteers.
• Maori Wardens could not see themselves being able to work under the Police
  legislation, as they would lose their mana. They prefer to work with their own people
  and do not want to be formally identified with the Police.
• It was stated that volunteers need to be supported more, and that there is a need
  for more resources in this area.
• Others would support some formalisation of the role. Problems can arise where
  volunteers in the prison system have questionable motives. Such roles should be
  closely scrutinised. Given that policing is one of the more regimented professions in
  New Zealand, volunteers should be tightly regulated as well.
• Conversely, some thought that formalisation would create a different ethos to that of
  volunteering. Another very different question is of representation. If individuals
  want to represent Police, then they should join them - either as a sworn or non-
  sworn member. There should not be halfway houses, where people band together,
  wearing blue shirts, and start "policing". The separation should remain.
• It was noted there are many volunteers within the South Auckland region. Botany
  Crimewatch patrol has well over 100 members, and they are given a direct mobile
  line to the Police Northern Communications Centre, and maps to help direct patrols.
  The regularly have people wanting to help out.




Notes from a forum on Police-community engagement, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006
                                                  5


• Another speaker identified a paradox - that volunteers are often most available in
  areas where perhaps they are not as necessary.
• Problems were stated to arise where volunteers are given police powers.           If
  volunteers receive powers, they should also receive the appropriate training on how
  to use them.
• There is a difference between self-organising volunteers and auxiliary police or the
  special constable role. Patrolling is not the best way to deal with crime, but it can be
  an empowering experience for the community. If they want to walk the streets as
  part of a Neighbourhood Support Group or Community Patrol Organisation, then that
  can be encouraged. This may make them feel good, but this does not lead to the
  conclusion that they should have powers from legislation, particularly as this could
  permit a type of vigilantism.
• It was stated the central question was whether legislation on the issues would help
  the Police engage more effectively with the individuals who work with alongside them
  in these volunteer or accredited capacities.
• With regards to the concern about the oversight of volunteers, one speaker stated
  they report back at the end of every shift, and that there have not been any
  reported difficulties with people overstepping their role.
• Volunteers require a lot of time and effort, and it was questioned whether they help
  or hinder Police. The experience of working with them has resulted in ambivalence:
  the speaker had seen the volunteer system working well, but had also seen it
  working abysmally. Thus there may be a sneaking distrust of volunteers.
• It was asked whether legislation exists describing the role of community safety
  patrols. The speaker supported building capacity into voluntary community groups.
• There is debate over which direction the public police force takes - formalising or
  accrediting. Those who wear the uniform have a certain community standing and the
  power to do things. If there is to be volunteers who hold powers similar to the
  police, they should be identifiable. This informs the public as to how trustworthy they
  are. Formalisation can demystify the volunteer sector, and provide it with legitimacy.
  Nationally accrediting volunteers may lead to greater public certainty and confidence.
• The Maori Warden role is successful partially because of its separation from the
  Police. This raises the broader point about the efficacy of other volunteers. New
  Zealanders do not necessarily want to put the power base into an entity 'up there'.
  Most people get behavioural boundaries from local connections - so crime prevention
  is not exclusively the Police's domain.
• Legislation on the role of volunteers would require provisions on rigorous screening
  and training. There would also need to be an increase in public awareness, so there
  is a clear mandate for volunteers. Good intentions are not sufficient. A valuable test
  is whether each community wants such groups operating in their neighbourhoods.
• There was appreciation of volunteers in police stations who speak minority
  languages.
• The answer to question 4 is 'no'. Police are trained to professional standards, and
  very few others would be able to hold their tempers in situations faced by the police.
  Again a wariness about vigilantism was raised.
• Further questions were raised - whether volunteers help provide additional policing
  resources, the scope of their role, whether they make the community feel more
  engaged with the police, or if the benefits lie solely with the individuals who are
  involved in these schemes.
• If there were to be such roles, they would require more formalisation in terms of
  promoting what they were about, and being clear about their mandate.




Notes from a forum on Police-community engagement, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006
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• Conversation then turned to structural questions about how police would consult at
  the TLA level, whether there should be a requirement to report results locally, and
  whether this already occurs voluntarily. It was doubted whether legislation would
  produce a difference. Within the provinces, there is potentially an even higher level
  of accountability.
• There is a TLA focus in the current reporting arrangements. Future reporting
  requirements should not be too onerous.
• A speaker was interested to see what happens on the ground across the country. All
  of the community boards in the Waitakere are visited to explain the Police statistics,
  but this is due to the strength of the local relationships. He was not sure whether
  that connection is as strong elsewhere, and questioned whether goodwill should be
  relied on.
• Many Districts do not have much publicly accessible information available on
  websites or similarly accessible places. Providing such information could allow local
  people to develop an insight into local policing. There could be more done to allow
  interested people to opt in. It was thought this should be included in legislation to
  ensure that it occurs.
• There was concern that some communities may receive preferential treatment,
  perhaps because they simply advocate louder. There is a need to consult with all
  groups, particularly in larger metropolitan cities where specific interest groups may
  form.
• It was questioned whether problems can be solved through legislation. Some
  speakers believed they could not be - stating that while paper compliance may be
  achieved, the relationships between groups are more significant. Legislation may not
  affect human dynamics, and is not a prerequisite for successful engagement. It may
  only produce more bureaucracy.
• Final comments: all Police powers should be consolidated in the Police Act so people
  know what Police can do, rather than having them scattered 'all over the show'.
  They should be written in plain English so people can understand the legislation.




Notes from a forum on Police-community engagement, Auckland University of Technology, 25 October 2006