Summary of review findings of de-merging traffic enforcement from Police
Report from the State Services Commissioner to the Minister of State Services, Hon Annette King, April 2007.See also:
Summary of Stakeholder's Comments, made to SSC during the review
Report by NZ Institute of Economic Reseach (NZIER), commissioned by SSC (PDF 393.5k)
26 April 2007
Minister of State Services
Summary of findings of review of pros, cons, and risks of de-merging traffic enforcement from Police
1 The purpose of this report is to advise:
- the findings of the review of the pros, cons and risks of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police
- that the State Services Commission (SSC) supports the status quo, i.e. traffic enforcement should remain an integrated function of the New Zealand Police
- that no further work by officials is warranted.
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 SSC was directed to undertake this review (Terms of Reference attached) 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 In addition the SSC has had access to the preliminary findings of recent UMR qualitative research sponsored by Police. While the qualitative research identifies a range of views, with some negative views of Police attributed to traffic enforcement, by and large the research shows strong support for the Police. While there are no conclusions that can be drawn from the qualitative research that are any different than those drawn by NZIER from the other sources of data, this research is not referred to in any more detail as it has not yet been publicly released by Police.
5 A summary of stakeholders' comments and the NZIER report are attached.
6 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 has been 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.
7 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 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.
8 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.
9 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.
10 Development of a 'traffic unit' option was beyond the scope of this 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.
11 For completeness however, the SSC has considered the potential implications of the 'traffic unit' option.
12 For the purposes of this consideration the SSC has 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.
13 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. 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.
14 Like a full de-merger, in our 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.
15 Therefore, SSC consider that there will be little to no increase in effectiveness in the long-term, and maybe a decrease in effectiveness in the short-term.
16 Therefore, SSC supports the status quo, i.e. traffic enforcement should remain an integrated function of the New Zealand Police.
17 There are mixed views about whether traffic enforcement is impacting negatively on the overall public perceptions of Police.
18 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.
19 These very mixed views appear to us to be driven from a perception that traffic policing is 'crowding out' crime enforcement, even though NZIER has concluded that the actual data does not suggest that one Police function has grown at the expense of the other.
20 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.
21 It is recommended that:
1 note that the State Services Commission supports the status quo, i.e. traffic enforcement should remain an integrated function of the New Zealand Police
2 note that NZIER in their independent review have identified net costs but were unable to identify net benefits
3 note that stakeholders provided well reasoned arguments against a de-merger of traffic enforcement from Police
4 note that the review found that a de-merger is likely to:
4.1 increase cost
4.2 reduce the holistic management of offenders
4.3 negatively impact on Police response
4.4 reduce the visibility of policing
4.5 fragment intelligence information
4.6 increase the complexity of relationships
4.7 create staffing risks for the new organisation and Police
5 note that some stakeholders, and some of the analysis within the NZIER report, suggest that a type of 'traffic unit' within Police might give the public greater confidence that responding to traffic offending does not crowd out other criminal offending
6 note that the State Services Commission considers that the 'traffic unit' option carries similar risks and disadvantages to a complete de-merger
7 note that any public perceptions about Police response to traffic offending 'crowding out' their response to criminal offending can be addressed in other ways, e.g. stronger linking of their external communications about traffic enforcement to road safety outcomes
8 direct the State Services Commission to draft a Cabinet paper which covers:
8.1 findings from the NZIER report and the stakeholder interviews
8.2 the State Services Commission view on de-merger
8.3 the State Services Commission view on a 'traffic unit' within Police
8.4 advice on what further work would be needed if Ministers supported a de-merger
8.5 a proposal for the Minister of Police to engage with the NZ Police regarding the development of options to minimise negative public perceptions resulting from traffic enforcement.
Deputy State Services Commissioner
Terms of Reference for a review of the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police
The Ministry of Transport's Traffic Safety Service was merged with Police in 1992. Under the Confidence and Supply Agreement with New Zealand First the Government has undertaken to "evaluate the costs and benefits of de-merging traffic enforcement from the Police".
The review will provide Ministers with a high-level picture of the pros, cons, and risks as a basis for deciding whether further work by officials is warranted. Costs and benefits will be taken to include both financial considerations and matters affecting organisational efficiency and effectiveness. Analysis of pros and cons will be at a level sufficient to assist Ministers to make a decision as to whether further work should be undertaken. It is not, therefore, intended that costs or benefits will be precisely quantified by this review. Nor is it intended to explore in detail alternative organisational and structural options for delivery of the traffic safety function. However, an indication of transition costs, risks, and implications will be provided.
Participants in the review will include:
- Ministry of Transport
- Land Transport New Zealand
- Other agencies represented on the National Road Safety Steering Committee - ACC, Ministry of Health, Local Government New Zealand
- Ministry of Justice
The Review will be undertaken by the State Services Commission. The SSC will consult with the stakeholders listed above.
The Review will result in a report to the Minister of State Services by 30 March 2007.