Keeping staff key for top cop

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Ashburton’s top policeman is in charge of a staff of 45 that includes detectives, highway patrol, uniform officers, other officers and support staff.

Senior sergeant Leigh Jenkins gave a policing update to Ashburton District councillors at a meeting last week.

He said he was satisfied with the level of police he had to staff the requirements of the district.

“I am grateful for the level of staffing I have now compared to when I first arrived and we are managing quite well,” he said.

Mr Jenkins said there was a recent spike in volume crime and in a short spree were five cars were taken and 11 broken into.

Two offenders, who were from out of town, were apprehended and were awaiting a date in court.

Currently it was business as usual, he said.

Mr Jenkins said his biggest challenge was staff retention.

The police were going through a transition where older members were going into retirement and the force was being boosted by new recruits.

“The average birth date of a police officer in New Zealand is 1969, and I was told this three years ago at police college. But they anticipate that in five years time it will be 1996,” he said.

Mr Jenkins had new fresh graduates from police college who were aged 19 and 20 and more were expected.

Often recruits lasted a couple of years here and in order to then fulfill ambitions to be detectives or dog handlers they moved to metro areas.

He estimated 40 to 50 per cent of his staff lived outside of the district and commuted here, which he said surprised him.

Mr Jenkins made a conscience push to try to recruit staff who were from Ashburton. Four recent recruits and four more in the wings, who had been requested, were local, he said.

Mr Jenkins told councillors that baseball caps for police were now part of the uniform and they were on the way for his staff next year.