Auditor-General's overview

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

In 2007, the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct (the Commission) released its report. The report criticised the historical conduct of some police officers and their associates. The conduct included inappropriate sexual activity and a culture of scepticism in dealing with complaints about sexual assault.

The Commission's findings included 60 recommendations. Most were for the New Zealand Police (the Police), but some were for the Police Complaints Authority and the State Services Commission.

As recommended by the Commission, the Government invited my Office to monitor, for 10 years, the Police's response to the Commission's recommendations. This is my Office's first monitoring report. We anticipate publishing at least three more reports in the next 10 years.

This report describes the direction, management, and monitoring of the work programme put in place by the Police to respond to the Commission's findings. It does not look in detail at the progress the Police have made in implementing each of the Commission's recommendations. That will be the focus of my Office's next monitoring report, which my staff will complete within 12 months.

Overall response to the Commission's findings

Overall, the Police have responded in a committed manner to the Commission's findings. The Police's work programme for responding has been comprehensive in terms of commitment of senior staff time and programme management. The response has focused on preparing for, and then working with, the new Policing Act 2008 (which addresses some of the matters raised by the Commission).

There are several matters that the Police need to give further attention to if progress is to be maintained. The Police have been, and intend to continue, providing training courses about the Code of Conduct, leadership, ethical policing, and investigating adult sexual assaults. During the course of our performance audit, the proportion of staff who have attended some of this training increased significantly. I encourage the Police to continue to increase the training rates. Performance appraisal completion rates need to improve too, and be closer to 100%.

The Police also need to review and amend how they report their progress with implementing the Commission's recommendations in their internal and external reporting documents. The reporting documents need to appropriately reflect the importance of the Commission's findings to changes within the Police.

Two surveys of the Police have been conducted so far, in 2007 and 2008, as the primary means, supplemented by other data, to assess organisational health. The Police and State Services Commission have told us that the next survey of Police is planned for 2010. They are planning to repeat the survey about every 12 months after that, up to and including 2016/17.

I encourage the Police and the State Services Commission to decide on a survey tool that is appropriate and cost-effective, for the purpose of meeting the requirements of the Commission's recommendation about this. I do not have a view at this time on the appropriateness or cost-effectiveness of the survey tool used to date.

At the time of our performance audit, the Police were designing the next phase of their work programme for responding to the Commission's findings. The Police call this an “implementation” phase. It is important that the Police progress the implementation phase as quickly as they can, given the elapsed time since the Commission's report.

The Police will need to ensure that the implementation phase fully involves staff throughout all levels of the Police, and especially at the middle management level. This management level includes Senior Sergeants and Sergeants, who have an important influence on Police culture particularly through their supervision of staff working directly with the public. The Police said that that the biggest challenge to fully implementing changes will be achieving “buy-in” from staff outside of Police National Headquarters.

Focus of my recommendations

In my view, the Police should include more analysis and evaluative information in their reports to Ministers and the public about progress with implementing the Commission's recommendations. They should also monitor changes in the Police's service levels and culture of the types signalled in the Commission's recommendations. This includes making information on these changes publicly available. I have made two recommendations about this.

I consider complaints against the Police to be a useful indicator of change within the Police, although the information does need to be interpreted carefully. The project the Police have under way to improve how they record and analyse complaints is important, and needs to be managed carefully.

Making sustained changes within the Police to implement the Commission's recommendations is not easy. The Police organisation is large, complex, and hierarchical. Achieving effective change within this type of organisation takes time and tenacity.

The Commission's report was released in April 2007. It would be unreasonable to expect the Police to have fully achieved all of the changes envisaged by the Commission in a little more than two years. The Police's commitment to making these changes is clear, but there is still much work to do.

I thank the Police for their assistance, co-operation, and openness when working with my staff on this first monitoring report.


K B Brady
Controller and Auditor-General

24 June 2009

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