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Deputy Auditor-General's overview

Response of the New Zealand Police to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct: Third monitoring report.

In 2007, the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct (the Commission) criticised the historical conduct, including sexual conduct, of some police officers and their associates. The Commission made multiple recommendations for change within the New Zealand Police (the Police).

The Government asked the Auditor-General to monitor, for 10 years, the progress the Police are making with the Commission's recommendations. This is our third monitoring report.

Trust and confidence in the Police is fundamental to policing

Effective implementation of the Commission's recommendations is important for maintaining and improving the public's trust and confidence in the Police. This means providing good quality services to the public – in particular, to adult sexual assault victims – and ensuring that the Police organisation is a safe place to work.

Trust and confidence in the Police are fundamental to the Police being able to do their job effectively. Any behaviour by police officers that shows a lack of integrity is a risk to this trust and confidence. In the extreme, it could also present a risk to the safety of the public and the Police.

Mixed progress means some risk to trust and confidence in the Police

Although overall levels of trust and confidence in the Police are relatively high and increasing, the mixed progress that the Police have made in responding to the Commission's recommendations after five years presents some risk to that trust and confidence.

Despite the dedicated efforts of many individuals within the Police, significant leadership challenges still exist and most of the Commission's recommendations are still to be completed.

By complete, we mean not only that the responses to each recommendation have been fully implemented but also that they are an integral and ongoing part of the Police's routine business practice and culture – and that they are routinely delivering the desired effect.

Overall, since our second monitoring report in 2010, there has been:

  • mixed progress with activities relating to complaints against the Police;
  • mixed but relatively poor progress to improve services for adult sexual assault complainants;
  • elements of good progress for organisational change; and
  • some progress to improve police behaviour.

Based on the mixed progress, we will do some targeted review work between now and our final report in 2017. The targeted review work will have a particular focus on the Police's progress with the Commission's recommendations about adult sexual assault investigation. It may also involve a scenario-based survey of police conduct.

Signs of improvement

The Police have given greater priority and resourcing to progressing the Commission's recommendations about adult sexual assault during 2012. This includes forming an adult sexual assault training review group, increasing the number of districts with dedicated Adult Sexual Assault Teams to five, and revising adult sexual assault investigation guidelines.

We welcome the increased priority and resourcing recently given to progressing the Commission's recommendations about adult sexual assault, but note that they have taken a long time to emerge.

An automated national early intervention system to alert the Police to behaviour by police officers that could potentially lead to more serious inappropriate behaviour is not yet operating but should be soon.

Some good management practices are evident. We saw examples of excellent individual change leadership, use of annual workforce survey results, targeted development programmes, and management of inappropriate behaviour when it occurs within the Police. The level of staff engagement within the Police is also increasing.

There has been an improvement in how the Police monitor and report change. Since September 2011, the Police have used a new model for reporting on their progress with the Commission's recommendations. The new approach recognises that recommendations are not complete until the desired results are achieved.

Further improvements needed

There is still room to improve services for adult sexual assault complainants, complete specialist training for police staff who might supervise or be involved in adult sexual assault investigations, and improve access to specialist medical assistance for complainants in the South Canterbury District Health Board area.

Although sexual assault crimes are a relatively small proportion of all crimes, ensuring that they are properly investigated and that members of the Police are not perpetrators of them are especially important for trust and confidence in the Police. Having and using the appropriate investigation guidance, training, monitoring, and specialist support should help.

Not getting this part of the Police's work right can directly affect the victims of sexual assault crimes, including whether their cases progress satisfactorily through the justice system and whether they have access to specialist support.

Overall, progress against recommendations about adult sexual assault investigation is relatively poor, given that it is five years since publication of the Commission's report.

Police behaviour and the demographic composition of the organisation could still be improved. There is still an unacceptable, although low, level of inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, harassment, some staff being reluctant to report wrongdoing because of the perceived way colleagues were treated when they did, and slow change in the gender and ethnic composition of the Police. Also, performance appraisal completion rates appear to have fallen. These issues need further attention by the Police.

Although historical, some of the behaviour by police officers identified by the Commission's work showed a lack of integrity. The Police need to have the culture and tools to support integrity and manage appropriate conduct within their organisation.

The necessary culture includes supporting people within the Police to know what appropriate behaviour is, to understand what is expected of them, and to be willing to report observed behaviour that does not meet these expectations. It also includes being receptive to outside scrutiny, including complaints.

The necessary tools include effective systems to manage complaints and performance, and an effective system for early identification of behaviour that could become a risk to trust and confidence in the Police.

Acknowledgements

The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, was previously a Deputy Commissioner of Police. She has complied with our Office's conflict of interest policy and has not been involved in this work. As the Deputy Auditor-General, with the same powers and functions as the Auditor-General, I have overseen this work.

I would like to thank the staff in the Police and other organisations, including representatives of Te Ohaakii a Hine – National Network for Ending Sexual Violence Together and the New Zealand Police Association, for the assistance they provided during this audit. I would also like to thank Peter Neyroud CBE QPM for his advice with our work. In particular, I would like to thank the Police's liaison staff for the practical and professional help provided to our audit team.

PS signature

Phillippa Smith
Deputy Controller and Auditor-General

11 October 2012

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Report details

CoverResponse of the New Zealand Police to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct: Third monitoring report

ISBN 978-0-478-38389-8 (print)
ISBN 978-0-478-38390-4 (online)

All our Police reports

We have produced five reports as we have monitored the Police's response to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct: