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Deputy Auditor-General's overview

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

Upholding the law and protecting people and property can be a dangerous, demanding, and stressful job. To do that job well, the New Zealand Police (the Police) need to have the trust and confidence of the community. To earn trust and confidence, the Police must show respect, consider the needs of victims, and meet very high standards of behaviour.

Although sexual assaults are a relatively small proportion of all crimes, ensuring that they are properly investigated is important for trust and confidence in the Police.

This report is the fourth we have produced on how the Police are responding to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct in 2007. It follows up on the Police's response to the five recommendations we made in our third monitoring report in October 2012. We have also taken the opportunity to look at changes in the Police's workplace culture.

Overall, the Police have made good progress in addressing the five recommendations from our third report.

Investigating sexual assaults

The Police have given more priority to investigating adult sexual assaults than in the past. They monitor and review the investigations better, using a case management approach. The Police are establishing the reporting systems they need to provide a good view of their investigation activities. They have also introduced a tiered training model for new recruits and detectives that specifies the level of training required to investigate sexual assaults.

The Police are focusing more on the needs of people who have reported a sexual assault. Some of the victim support organisations we spoke to observed that the Police were more empathetic than previously. They felt that the Police showed greater respect for victims and were focusing on what is right for the victim.

However, there is still room for the Police to improve how they communicate with victims and how they collate and use feedback from victims. The Police acknowledge that they need to do more to understand the effectiveness of the improvements they have made for responding to victims of a sexual assault and how they could make further improvements.

Responding to poor behaviour

Since our third monitoring report, the Police have made good progress with how they encourage high standards of behaviour and respond to inappropriate behaviour by Police staff.

Generally, leaders at all levels within the Police are more committed to modelling and supporting the expected standards of behaviour. If expected standards of behaviour are not met, the Police are now more likely to take corrective action and to take that action sooner.

Our impression was that, while most staff now felt more able to "call" or report inappropriate behaviour, they did not always feel assured that management acted on complaints in such a way as to change the behaviour. Actions taken in response to reporting are not always visible enough to staff, which risks staff becoming unwilling to report breaches of conduct or raise matters of concern.

Most police staff we spoke to understood, supported, and displayed the expected values and standards of behaviour. They understood the importance of efforts to build a supportive and positive workplace culture. The values and standards expected are embedded in the training provided to new recruits.

Wider workplace cultural changes

In an organisation of about 12,000 people, it is inevitable that people will sometimes fail to meet expected standards of behaviour. This can happen no matter how many processes, policies, or good practices are in place. What is important is that the Police reduce the likelihood of failures, know when they happen, and take appropriate action. What we heard, observed, and read suggests that, in general, the Police seek to do this.

One of the best ways for the Police to reduce the likelihood of individuals behaving inappropriately in such a large organisation is by improving workplace culture. Therefore, we also looked at changes that the Police have been making to the wider workplace culture. It was important to do this because that culture shapes the professional environment in which the Police manage their own behaviour and investigate allegations of sexual assault.

In my view, the Police are paying more attention to their workplace culture than when we published our third monitoring report. Policing strategies and change programmes have contributed, along with leadership at many levels, increasing diversity in the Police, and recruiting staff with values that match those of the culture the Police are working towards.

It is important that the Police's newer recruits maintain a focus on these values. Leaders in the Police are working to ensure that sergeants and senior sergeants, who have important supervisory roles, are fully aware of their vital role in training and influencing those they supervise.

Although there is clear improvement in the Police's workplace culture since the events that the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct covered, the Police know that they need to be vigilant about maintaining their focus on improving their workplace culture and actively manage risks to it.

We agree and have made a number of suggestions for the Police to identify and manage matters that could impede progress towards an improved workplace culture and to further improve how they investigate adult sexual assaults and deal with victims.

Next steps

During our audit, we saw that the Police have made progress towards describing and building a new workplace culture that reflects the spirit and intent of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct's recommendations. The workplace culture is important to providing the excellent standard of service to the community that the Police aspire to. The Police acknowledge that there is more work to do to ensure that these positive changes endure.

The Police must also be able to show that they have changed. It is therefore important that they set up ways to measure improvements in their workplace culture.

Our formal monitoring of the Police's response to the Commission's recommendations will end in 2017. Our last monitoring report will look at how the Police are demonstrating, through their own monitoring and reporting, that they are living up to the high standards expected of them. The onus is on the Police to demonstrate how the organisation has changed, including setting and using appropriate benchmarks and measures to guide how they monitor and report on their progress.

Acknowledgements

The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, was previously a Deputy Commissioner of Police. As the Deputy Auditor-General, with the same powers and functions as the Auditor-General, I have overseen our monitoring work.

To produce this report, the audit team visited four of the 12 police districts and spoke to about 250 police staff. Those staff included the Commissioner of Police, staff at all levels (including at Police National Headquarters and at the Royal New Zealand Police College), new recruits, and people working at the front counters of police stations. I thank the Commissioner of Police and his staff for their assistance.

I also thank Louise Nicholas and Dr Kim McGregor, other representatives of victim support organisations, and representatives of the State Services Commission, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and the New Zealand Police Association.

PS signature

Phillippa Smith
Deputy Controller and Auditor-General

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Report details

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

ISBN 978-0-478-44209-0

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: