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To: House of Representatives

Protect First Responders: #SayNo to Revenge Based Policy

Protect First Responders: #SayNo to Revenge Based Policy

We ask you, the members of Parliament, to oppose the Protection for First Responders and Correction Officers Bill and work to provide solutions that prevent first responders from being harmed in the first place.

The Protection for First Responders and Police officers Bill will not succeed in keeping our brave frontline staff safe, and instead will only punish vulnerable people who need help, increasing our prison population in the process.

We ask Parliament to not proceed with this bill, but rather redirect its energy into providing solutions that will mitigate the risk that our First Responders and Prison Officers face, with the goal of focusing on prevention, rather than punishment.

Why is this important?

First responders are the people who are first on the scene of an emergency and do so sometimes at risk of harm to themselves. They need our complete support and protection from the risks involved in the essential work they do.

However the proposed Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill now going through Parliament fails to provide a solution to the issue which it seeks to address. The Bill if passed will create a new offence – injuring a first responder or prison officer with intent to injure – and carry a mandatory minimum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.

This will not prevent any assaults on First Responders or Prison Officers.

Policies based on ideas of punishment and revenge do not help to reduce violent crime or protect our First Responders. Many people who commit these kinds of crimes are not safe, stable, or in a sound mind at the time that the crime occurs and are the people who need support themselves.

Many of the people this Bill would affect if made law would be people suffering from extreme trauma, addiction, mental illness and mental distress.

The Bill would send people who themselves need help into the court system and increase Aotearoa’s already too-high prison numbers.

This bill fails to recognize that many of the people who will be affected by this bill are not in a rational or calm state of mind during the time these assaults occur. People who could be severely distressed, mentally ill, intoxicated, or any combination of the above at the time the offence occurs.

If this bill goes through it will have catastrophic consequences for our communities. We know that the justice system disproportionately causes harm to Māori.[ref] This bill, if it goes through, will continue to work within this racist system sending more Māori through the justice system rather than the health system.

When you send one of our whanau to jail, it does not just affect the individual. It harms all of us. The children left behind without parents, the partners left alone to manage on their own, the whanau and friends who have to struggle with the stigma and loss of losing someone they love.

If the Government is serious about keeping First Responders and Prison Officers safe, it needs to address the root causes.

We believe Parliament would be better served using our time and resources seeking real solutions. For example:
★ Focus on prevention (as outlined above).

★ Review the calibre and frequency of de-escalation and assessment training provided to First Responders and Prison Officers.

★ Provide ongoing de-escalation and assessment training to all professionals working on the front line.

★ Provide intensive training for all first responders and prison officers around addiction, mental illness, and the effects of trauma and colonisation.

★ Bring back the previous government's plan to create a mental health team equipped to support the Police and our First Responders in de-escalating and caring for people in crisis and suffering from mental distress. This is now being trialed in Wellington.

★ Review whether First Responders and Prison Officers have the right support to manage these high and complex situations they are being asked to walk into. Are they staffed adequately to deal with these situations? Do they have adequate safety and support plans in place to mitigate the risks they are dealing with? If not, the Government must fully resource these services, providing them with what they need to do the job safely.

To protect our First Responders and Prison Officers we must provide solutions that prevent them from being harmed in the first place.

A serious commitment to our First Responders safety would address the impacts of colonisation and generational trauma, would look at ending poverty, increase support for our under resourced mental health and addiction services, and would fast track the reform of our current Justice system in order to ensure that it heals victims, and restores those who perpetrate crime back to healing and wholeness.

In January we made a submission to the Justice Select Committee to make these recommendations, and we thank you for your support so far. However the Bill will still go forward to its Second Reading, and Parliament will get another chance to vote on it.

If you want our politicians to #SayNo and #EndRevengeBasedJustice, then please sign.

Your signature will be delivered together with others as a petition to Andrew Little, the Minister of Justice, prior to the Second Reading of this bill

If you would like to read more about this bill you can do so here:

Revenge Based Justice Wont Keep First Responders Safe, Noted, 23 Jan 2020 https://www.noted.co.nz/currently/currently-crime/revenge-justice-wont-keep-new-zealands-first-responders-safe

Law change not necessary to protect first responders, NZ Law Society, 9 March 2020 https://www.lawsociety.org.nz/news-and-communications/news/law-change-not-necessary-to-protect-first-responders,-says-law-society

Updates

2020-03-12 23:51:20 +1300

See our latest piece in When Lambs Are Silent by Robert Moore from Anglican Action. Have a read and share it round. Lets get the message out there.

"Bill English described prisons as a ‘moral and fiscal failure’... We cannot afford – in any sense of the word – to continue treating incarceration as a solution. New Zealanders deserve better and we want leadership that support that."

https://wp.me/p8jtZf-a3

2020-03-12 20:53:00 +1300

100 signatures reached

2020-03-10 22:35:49 +1300

From our piece in the Spinoff today.

"Instead of keeping first responders and prison officers safe, this bill will do damage – not only to the individuals who are sent to prison, but also to our entire community. And it will put our first responders at greater risk."

https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/10-03-2020/nz-firsts-first-responders-bill-is-about-vengeance-not-justice/

2020-03-10 17:58:47 +1300

50 signatures reached

2020-03-10 17:07:58 +1300

Wow, we have almost reached 50 supporters, and we haven't even been going for a day yet.

Why not share with your friends, let's see if we can reach 100 by the end of today!

2020-03-10 13:10:23 +1300

25 signatures reached

2020-03-10 11:28:25 +1300

10 signatures reached