Released for publication by the Minister of State Services, Hon Annette King, 31 July 2007.

Office of the Minister of State Services

Chair

Cabinet Policy Committee

Review of the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from Police

Proposal

1 This paper proposes that Ministers consider the findings of the review of the pros, cons, risks and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police.

Executive Summary

2 As part of the 2005 Confidence and Supply Agreement with New Zealand First the Government undertook to "evaluate the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police". The State Services Commission (SSC) was directed to undertake this review to provide Ministers with a basis for deciding whether further work by officials is warranted.

3 The SSC interviewed key stakeholders and commissioned the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) to provide independent analytical support for this review.

4 NZIER and stakeholders provided well reasoned, evidence based arguments against a de-merger. Overall, the review revealed a number of disadvantages and associated risks with a de-merger that will appear over the longer term. The key disadvantages and risks are increased cost, decreased visibility and decreased flexibility and ability to respond.

5 During the review some stakeholder organisations and the NZIER report put forward, as a possibility, a middle option of a 'traffic unit' within the current Police organisation. Development of a 'traffic unit' option was beyond the scope of this review and therefore NZIER did not undertake analysis of it. However, the SSC considers that it is probable that many of the disadvantages and risks of a full de-merger, identified by stakeholders and the NZIER report, would also be carried by a 'traffic unit' within Police.

6 The SSC supports the status quo and considers no further work by officials is warranted.

7 During the course of the review it became clear that there are mixed views about whether traffic enforcement is impacting negatively on the overall public perceptions of Police. Consequently, it would be beneficial for Police to explore the opportunities that exist with regards to minimising the negative public perception of the Police, resulting from traffic enforcement.

Background

8 The Ministry of Transport's Traffic Safety Service was merged with Police in 1992, following a 1991 review commissioned by the Government of the day. Under the 2005 Confidence and Supply Agreement with New Zealand First the Government undertook to "evaluate the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police". The purpose of the review was to provide Ministers with a high level picture of the pros, cons, risks, costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from Police, as a basis for deciding whether further work by officials is warranted. The SSC was directed to undertake the review.

9 The SSC interviewed key stakeholders and analysed the issues from these interviews. NZIER independently analysed data from a range of data sources, and then the SSC used the combined analysis to underpin the findings of the review.

Comment

10 NZIER and stakeholders provided well reasoned, evidence based arguments against a de-merger. NZIER concluded that overall, de-merging traffic is expected to result in higher costs of service delivery (both transitional and ongoing), for little readily identifiable benefit. This view was shared by the stakeholders interviewed by SSC. In addition, the January 2007 UMR survey showed 61% of the survey respondents wanted Police to continue handling both traffic and general policing.

11 The review revealed a number of disadvantages and associated risks with a de-merger that will appear over the longer term. These include the potential to:

  • Cost more than the current arrangements The analysis of costs and benefits shows that the medium term fiscal costs of two de-merged organisation to be estimated at 3 to 4 percent higher than the current Police organisation (increases of $25 to $40 million per annum) with basic start up capital costs of up to $15 million. These capital costs could increase significantly depending on the accommodation options chosen.
  • Reduce the holistic management of offenders Most criminal offenders are also road users. Under the current system, Police undertaking traffic duties apprehend drivers who are involved in traffic offences and who are also wanted for, or are undertaking, criminal activities. In a de-merged situation there is likely to be duplication of resources between the two agencies responding to incidents which are currently dealt with by the officer(s) on the scene (e.g. where a traffic offender is pulled over and is found to have a weapon in their vehicle).
  • Negatively impact on Police response A de-merger will create smaller numbers of frontline staff in each organisation. Smaller numbers of frontline Police would result in reduced flexibility which could in turn affect the ability to deploy to general and/or emergency calls. This effect may be disproportionately larger in small towns. It may be necessary to employ more staff to cater for this. This will result in lower average utilisation of staff. In short, splitting the organisation is likely to deprive the two organisations of an economy of scale and scope which is currently enjoyed by the Police.
  • Reduce the visibility of policing Currently the minimal difference in branding of vehicles means all Police cars and uniformed Police officers, including those on traffic duty, are visible in the community and are therefore assisting in deterring criminal activity, traffic offences and providing community reassurance.

    With separate branding and livery, the visibility of policing could be significantly reduced for both traffic and general policing. This reduced visibility has the potential to impact negatively on community reassurance, and on the deterrent effect on criminal and/or road offending, (e.g. a potential traffic offender sees a Police car on the highway and feels they can infringe the road rules because they think the Police are unlikely to ticket them). This in turn could impact on safety outcomes.

  • Fragment intelligence information A de-merged environment would lead to greater fragmentation of intelligence information. This would lower the value that both groups gain from the information.
  • Increase the complexity of relationships A de-merger creates one more organisation for the public, the community and other agencies (e.g. Territorial Local Authorities) to interface with, thereby making it more complex to get alignment of policy, strategy and operations.
  • Create staffing issues for the new organisation and the Police There are a number of staffing issues that could pose a risk in a de-merger situation: ability to recruit into the new organisation; potential redundancies in Police; reduced career paths; potentially different salary structures creating difficulties in moving staff from one organisation to the other; and potential losses of intellectual capital from both/either organisation. In addition a de-merger may derail the current initiative to recruit 1250 Police due to a loss of management focus on this issue, and to potential recruits taking a 'wait and see' attitude to organisational structures and career choices.

    There were also a number of short term risks identified by both NZIER and the stakeholders. The most significant of these risks is that it is likely that management and staff focus will be diverted by de-merger processes, resulting in a transition period with poorer outcomes for New Zealanders. This may be manifest as a decrease in public safety and a resultant increase in reported crime.

    The SSC therefore supports the status quo.

'Traffic unit' within the current Police organisation?

12 During the review some stakeholder organisations and the NZIER report put forward, as a possibility, a middle option of a 'traffic unit' within the current Police organisation. It was considered by these stakeholders that a 'traffic unit' within Police might give the public greater confidence that the Police provide an appropriately balanced response to traffic and non-traffic related offending.

13 In the January 2007 UMR poll 44% of those polled wanted there to be a clearer distinction made between staff who handle traffic enforcement and those on general duties.

14 Development of a 'traffic unit' option was beyond the scope of the review and therefore NZIER did not undertake analysis of it. It is also important to note that the establishment of any unit within the Police would be a matter for the Commissioner of Police to advise on.

15 For completeness however, the SSC considered the potential implications of the 'traffic unit' option.

16 For the purposes of this consideration the SSC assumed that differentiation of the traffic function through the establishment of a 'traffic unit' would mean identifiably different roles, i.e. traffic officers vis-à-vis police officers. This would mean different training, livery, identity, pay rates and powers. In other words, Police would not undertake traffic duties and 'Traffic Officers' would not undertake police duties.

17 The SSC considered that it is probable that many of the disadvantages and risks of a full de-merger, identified by stakeholders and the NZIER report, would also be carried by a 'traffic unit' within Police. This could include reduction of holistic management of offenders, negative impacts on Police response, and a reduction in visibility of policing. This option would however be of lower cost than a full de-merger, although it would still be more expensive than the status quo.

18 Like a full de-merger, in SSC'S judgement, a significant risk is that as management and staff focus is diverted on to the establishment of a 'traffic unit', it is likely that there could be poorer outcomes for New Zealanders, i.e. a decrease in safety and an increase in reported crime.

19 Therefore, SSC consider that there would be little to no increase in effectiveness in the long-term, and maybe a decrease in effectiveness in the short-term.

20 Therefore, SSC supports the status quo, i.e. traffic enforcement should remain an integrated function of the New Zealand Police.

Public perception issues

21 There are mixed views about whether traffic enforcement is impacting negatively on the overall public perceptions of Police.

22 Stakeholders' views were mixed and the NZIER analysis also came up with a mixed response. NZIER concluded that:

  • In general, public trust and confidence in the Police is high, and this support has not notably declined due to increased levels of traffic enforcement.
  • There is strong support from the Public for enforcement of road safety, with 90% of people polled (2006) thinking recent levels of enforcement were either about right or not high enough.
  • A majority of the public support the Police retaining traffic enforcement, but most of these people wish to see greater delineation of traffic enforcement from general policing, with only 17% of survey respondents supporting the status quo.

23 These very mixed views appeared to SSC to be driven from a perception that traffic policing is 'crowding out' crime enforcement, even though NZIER concluded that the actual data does not suggest that one Police function has grown at the expense of the other.

24 Given this, it would be useful for Police to explore the opportunities that exist to give the public greater reassurance that traffic policing does not negatively impact on (and may even improve) their capacity to attend to other crime. For example, stronger linking of their external communications about traffic enforcement to road safety outcomes; investigating whether there are branding options worth exploring, stronger public communications about their 'crash book' strategy and about the seriousness and criminal nature of some traffic offending.

Conclusion

25 Minister of State Services agrees with the analysis concluded by SSC and NZIER. The Minister proposes the continuation of the status quo, i.e. that traffic enforcement remains an integrated function of Police, rather than being de-merged.

Consultation

26 During the course of the Review the SSC completed a number of interviews with key stakeholders from the New Zealand Police, Ministry of Transport, Police Association, Police Managers' Guild, Automobile Association, Victim Support, Accident Compensation Corporation, Ministry of Justice, Land Transport NZ, and Local Government New Zealand. Written feedback was received from the Ministry of Health. The review was also informed by analysis of data, provided by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) as independent consultants, to support the conclusions and recommendations of the report.

27 The majority of these agencies support the recommendations made in the SSC report. The Police Association consider that further work regarding the option of a 'traffic unit' within Police would be beneficial, but agree with the recommendation that traffic not be de-merger from Police.

28 Treasury have been consulted throughout the review period and support the conclusions and recommendations drawn in the SSC report.

Financial implications

29 There are no financial implications arising from this paper.

Human rights

30 There are no human rights implications arising from this paper.

Legislative implications

31 There are no legislative implications arising from this paper.

Regulatory impact and compliance cost statement

32 There are no regulatory impacts or compliance cost statement arising from this paper.

Gender implications

33 There are no gender implications arising from this paper.

Publicity

34 There will be a release of the SSC Report, together with the Summary of Stakeholders' Comments and the NZIER Report, following agreement to the recommendations of this paper.

Recommendations

35 It is recommended that the Cabinet Policy Committee

1 note that the review of the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from Police has been completed;

2 note that the State Services Commission considered that the 'traffic unit' option within Police carries similar risks and disadvantages to a complete de-merger;

3 note that the State Services Commission supports the status quo, i.e. traffic enforcement should remain an integrated function of the New Zealand Police;

4 invite the Minister of Police to engage with the New Zealand Police regarding the development of options to minimise negative public perceptions resulting from traffic enforcement; and

5 agree to retain the status quo of traffic enforcement as a function of Police.

Hon Annette King

Minister of State Services

 

Last modified: