Lack of cells at new police station builds

By Aroha Treacher
  • North Island: East Coast

Only five of the 18 new police stations built throughout the country have overnight holding cells, something Labour Police spokesman Stuart Nash believes is short-sighted and adds pressure to police resources.

"Napier is the only city or town with a population of over 20,000 that does not have its own police cells and there's 70,000 people that live here. So what has to happen in Napier, if any officer picks up someone who is drunk or has committed a crime, they have to drive them out to Hastings," says Nash.

The travel time out of Napier can mean longer booking times, something Nash says can sometimes be up to three hours.

"There are times when the police tell me we have no cars patrolling in Napier after dark because they are all in Hastings putting people in cells. They also tell me that it does impact on their decision around what they do."

Since 2009, 18 new police stations have been built, 13 of those did not have any cells built into the new design.

The office of the current Minister of Police, Paula Bennett, said this is not something the minister is able to comment on. However, Nash believes the lack of cells is short sighted.

"The men and women in our police force work incredibly hard, they really do, but under trying circumstances, and it's not just men and women on the ground, it's also the resources and the buildings and the facilities and the cars and the vests. If you skimp on that, the police themselves know they can't do the job to the best of their ability."

Assistant Commissioner Jevon McSkimming says recent police projects including the new Auckland Custody Unit and the joint custodial facility at the Christchurch Police Station within the Christchurch Justice Precinct have a centralised focus.

"These centralised facilities are purpose built and specifically designed to hold people overnight in a safe environment with trained staff who manage their care while in custody."

"The centralisation of overnight holding facilities also frees up front line staff, so they can spend more time in the community."

Across New Zealand, there are 328 police stations, of these only 45 have overnight cell facilities. However, a significant number of these stations have short-term holding cells.  

Police did say that it is important to note that police operational requirements determine which stations with cells are used for custodial purposes at any time. This means that some stations may have cells that are not used operationally.