Some questions for the NZ Police

16 May

Peter Marshall
Commissioner of Police
Police National Headquarters
Wellington

May 16,2013

Fax: +64 4 498 7400

Dear Sir,

I am writing to discuss our union’s concerns over the discounts given to police staff by McDonald’s.

We see an apparent contradiction between the official police policy; comments made in the past by police national headquarters; a comment by the minister of police; and the actual practice of McDonald’s.

According to the February 11, 2007, NZ Herald “Internal police regulations clearly state that sworn police staff are not allowed to accept ‘a discount on any goods or services where that discount is offered because that person is a member of police’.”

The Herald continued: “The national manager of professional standards, Superintendent Stu Wildon, said he would be alerting all district commanders to the policy and demanding greater enforcement. He said he was unaware of the prevalence of fast food discounts for police, and feared the publicity would cause damage to the force’s reputation.

“‘The soliciting and receipt of gratuities and rewards certainly is perceived by some as corruption and that is one of the reasons we need to be pro-active in managing and investigating it,’ Wildon said.

“He said it was important to note that officers are not negotiating the discounts but that they are offered to police by businesses. Police rules say officers are allowed to receive calendars, diaries and notebooks, pens, ties, cufflinks, hats, badges, paperweights and ‘other items of little intrinsic value’”.

(See http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10423412)

On TV3 last night Police Minister Anne Tolley says it was “very clear they [police] are not allowed to get any form of discount.”

But we know they do receive 50% discounts at McDonald’s, and it is not an item of “little intrinsic value”. A McDonald’s electronic register details a dedicated ”police promo” button (top right of picture attached) offering discounts.

The union’s concern is no different to that expressed in the NZ Herald article by Chester Burrows, a former police officer and the then National Party spokesperson on police. He said: “The idea of getting cheap anything because you are in a police uniform is just not on these days… these deals aren’t offered for anything other than expectation that when they press the button that police will turn up.”

We have written to the Auckland Police after recent pickets to complain about the behavior of the police on recent pickets. We considered them over the top in the circumstances with as many police deployed as picketers. They appeared to see it as their duty to stop our picket having any effect on the business of the company. Their actions were aggressive and provocative in my view. (See attachedletter)

As someone who has been on more than my fair share of pickets and protests I was genuinely surprised and shocked by the aggressive tactics adopted. We were lucky to avoid the police tactics provoking a more violent confrontation.

When we found out about the discounts given to police staff we also though it appropriate to raise it as an issue with the company to avoid any hint of bias.

I wrote to the company to say that we would like the company to terminate the provision of discounted or free food to police officers as being inappropriate in the current circumstances.

It is simply a bad look for Police to be receiving discounts from a company that they are being called on to “protect” during the dispute we are having with them.

This issue arose with the Queensland police a few years ago. The following media reports cover some of the concerns – including by ethics experts and the state Commissioner of Police:

“Giving police half-price hamburgers should become a criminal offence, a Crime and Misconduct Commission inquiry has been told.

“Police who accepted discounted food and other gratuities could develop a sense of entitlement that led to a form of extortion, Griffith University police ethics expert Professor Tim Prenzler said.

“He said bringing in laws preventing businesses from giving police freebies was the only way to stop the practice.

“’You’ve got to attack the supply and demand,’ he said.

“Dr Prenzler said businesses that gave police freebies could be seen as buying ‘cheap security . . . in violation of the principle of police impartiality and equality of service’.”

(See http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/bid-to-outlaw-freebies-for-queensland-police/story-e6freon6-1225928615992)

Another article reported:

“Commissioner Bob Atkinson said uniformed police officers should not be entitled to food and drink discounts.

“’We shouldn’t expect a discount for basically just doing our job,’ he told 612 ABC Radio.

“Mr Atkinson said the issue was one of public perception.

“’If you’re standing at the counter at McDonalds and you’re in a police uniform and you get a discount … and the person next to you is paying full price how does a member of the public feel about it?’he said.

“’Does it mean that there is an increased police presence in some places because they offer a discount whereas in other places they don’t get that police presence?’

“’We can see both sides of the argument, but the police department and I have the view that those discounts at fast-food places have to go.'”

(See http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/new-rules-outlaw-police-freebies-20110405-1cyzr.html)

There is a simple issue of where “discounts” start and end. If it is appropriate to accept discounts for fast food is it also okay to accept them for alcohol at bars (when off duty of course), or brothels (it is also legal after all). That is why the policy exists I assume. It is a slippery slope.

I understand the Police Association has negotiated some discounts. However the McDonald’s discounts are not part of those.

We have a few questions we would like answered to clear up any confusion.

  1. Is it allowed for police staff to accept discounted food from McDonald’s?
  2. Have the police ever asked McDonald’s to stop this practice (as reported in the NZ Herald article quoted above)?
  3. If it is now an approved practice what led to the change of policy?
  4. If it is not an approved practice what is being done to stop it?

Yours sincerely

Mike Treen
National Director

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One Response to “Some questions for the NZ Police”

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  1. First round of McD’s fight – Unite two knockdowns – struggle continues | unitenews - May 18, 2013

    […] May 16: Some questions for the NZ Police – letter from Mike Treen to the Commissioner of Police https://unitenews.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/some-questions-for-the-nz-police/ […]

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