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To boost public trust, police focus on Asian recruitment

Sunday 11 Nov 2012 6:21 p.m.

By Charlotte Shipman

New Zealand police want to boost the public's trust by more accurately reflecting the country's ethnic diversity.

They say an Auckland volunteer programme, the Asian Safety Patrol, could be rolled out throughout the country.

Terry Lin's not a police officer, but he wants to be one.

He's one of 60 Asian Safety Patrollers who spend their Friday and Saturday nights shadowing police in downtown Auckland and at cultural events.

“Asians, ethnic groups, we tend to have that shy laid-back characteristic,” says Mr Lin. “So we actually get to get a lot of experience talking to the public, getting our confidence up before we get into police college.”

And police want recruits like Chinese-born Mr Lin.

In Auckland, there are 180 different ethnicities. Deputy Police Commissioner Viv Rickard says the police must reflect that diversity.

“In order to police appropriately, people need to see themselves in the organisation,” says Mr Rickard.

He's worried there's not enough of an ethnic mix in Auckland’s police. But it's also a nationwide problem.

Around 10 percent of New Zealand’s population is Asian, but within the police only around 3 percent is Asian.

“Our mantra at the moment is ‘use who you are, don't lose who you are’,” says Mr Rickard.

Every patroller wants to don a blue uniform. Both Allan Opinion and Minkyung Son have successfully gone from safety patroller to police officer.

As a volunteer, Ms Son helped a woman who had lost her handbag.

“Because I could speak the same language she even thanked me because she felt more comfortable speaking Korean.”

Within the group they speak 21 languages.

Mr Opinion spent two years in the programme, where he learnt valuable lessons about policing.

“It's a lot of paperwork and it's not like the movies,” he says.

The programme started in 2009, and while it's only an Auckland initiative right now, Deputy Commissioner Rickard says there's room for it to be extended to other main centres.

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