Police fear for safety in stations

Police staff in Wanaka and Oamaru are concerned their police stations lack sufficient armoured screening to protect them from the public.

Seven stations across the country are listed in the latest New Zealand Police Association magazine Police News as justifying safety concerns about staff.

They are Wanaka, Oamaru, Rolleston, Paeroa, Levin, Tauranga and New Plymouth.

The issue first came to public attention in October when the Otago Daily Times reported the association was acting for Wanaka staff over the design of their new $3 million police station - officially opened in October.

Staff were unhappy at a lack of barriers above the public counter in the station foyer.

The Police News article says a working group that provided input during the planning of the Wanaka station signed off on a public counter design with armoured glass barriers.

However, the design was changed and the working party was not informed.

''On the day the station opened, an official [Health and Safety in Employment Act] hazard notice was issued,'' the article says.

The foyer also has a counter that is less than 750mm high, with no barrier above it.

The article quoted a Wanaka staff member saying an individual ''would be able to hurdle this bench, gaining full access to the whole police station''.

Another police officer considered the Wanaka design was a breach of health and safety standards because of an increased risk of physical harm and workplace stress.

''While seated at my desk, I suspect I should wear an SRBA [stab-proof] vest. I need to monitor hazards in my office area such as scissors and other potential stabbing instruments.''

The article quoted Oamaru Senior Constable Bruce Dow saying: ''Anyone can come into the Oamaru station, easily slide or jump over the counter and walk straight into the watch house by turning a single door handle''.

It pointed out the new $20 million Tauranga station had a 7.5m-long public counter with no barriers and it was being investigated by Occupational Safety and Health after a volunteer worker at the station was ''frightened by a particularly belligerent member of the public''.

The article said the association was worried new police station designs were placing staff at ''unnecessary risk''.

''Although it is, fortunately, rare, agitated offenders do enter police stations determined to menace staff.''

Measures to improve safety at the Wanaka station are due by Christmas.

In response to ODT questions about the issues raised in the Police News article, police national manager asset optimisation Andrew Macarthur said he was aware of Wanaka issues but no formal complaint had been made by the association.

''Our new facilities are designed to provide an open and safe environment for staff which assists them to perform both their operational tasks and to interact with the public. We are happy to work with our staff to address any workplace issues that arise.''

- mark.price@odt.co.nz

Society not evolved enough for anarchism

Being a world with enough maturity and personal responsibility to not need Government. But, Orator, villains attack police, and civilians, because violent offenders are Ratbags. It is not the police destroying families by putting away crims; it is the crims' own doing.

Police safety in rural stations

Really? Put barriers up between the public, who the Police are supposed to help, and themselves? I think there are already too many barriers. A recent TV3 programme, "The Vote" with which we are all familiar, took a vote on public trust in the Police. 56% of New Zealanders said they did not trust the police. In such a small country, this is an indictment on the Police.
In the past few years, Greg O'Connor has tried to reassure the public that the Police have weeded out the bad eggs and a closer rapport with public is being actively pursued. Well, errecting barriers at Police stations is no way to do that.
The trick is to find the reasons the public want to attack Police and deal with that. As far as Police stations go, start by adding an extra officer so there is always backup at any time. One can be appraochable and the other, his or her station support in the event of an issue.
Through all this it is important to note that the key purpose of the Police is to stop criminals and probably send them to jail. This in itself accelerates haterd of the Police with every destroyed family and friendship their job causes. Maybe this is why the figure of 56% - still, someone's got to do it I guess.