Part 1: Introduction

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

In this Part, we discuss:

Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

In 2004, the Government set up the Commission to carry out a full and independent investigation into the way in which the Police had dealt with allegations of sexual assault by members and associates of the Police. This followed the publication of allegations suggesting that police officers might have deliberately undermined or mishandled investigations into complaints of sexual assault that had been made against other officers.

The Commission's report, released in April 2007, concluded that there were systemic flaws requiring attention from both police management and government legislators. The report's findings included 60 recommendations, 48 of which related directly to the Police. Appendix 1 reproduces the recommendations, along with a summary of the Commission's findings.

The Commissioner stated that, in her view:

Independent monitoring of and reporting on police progress in making these changes will … be critical to ensure that the momentum established through the Commission is sustained.1

The Commission recommended that the Government invite the Controller and Auditor-General to monitor the Police's implementation of all of the Commission's recommendations, including the Police's projects and initiatives of the type described in the Commission's recommendation 58. This monitoring role was to last for 10 years and include regular reporting to Parliament.

In September 2007, the then Government invited the Auditor-General to carry out the monitoring role. The Auditor-General accepted the Government's invitation.2

Our monitoring work

This report is the first in our 10-year monitoring programme. Figure 1 outlines the other work that we envisage as part of the monitoring programme. Within 12 months of this report we will produce a second report assessing the specific progress the Police have made in implementing each of the Commission's recommendations.3

We may supplement the anticipated reports described in Figure 1 with other work. If the findings of our later reports show that additional work is necessary, we will select from the range of audit and assurance tools available to us, to ensure that we use methods appropriate to the issues being examined.

Figure 1
Plan for monitoring the New Zealand Police's response to the Commission's recommendations

Main focus Additional focus Completed by
Report 1 What is the Police’s work programme? Is it an effective work programme? 30-Jun-09
Report 2 Have the Police effectively implemented the projects and initiatives in the work programme? Have there been changes to the Police’s work programme, and is the amended work programme effective? 30-Jun-10
Report 3 What sustainable improvements in policing for the New Zealand public have resulted from implementation of the work programme? Have there been changes to the Police’s work programme, and is the amended work programme effective?

Have the Police continued to effectively implement the projects and initiatives in the work programme?
Report 4 An overview of how the Police’s work programme has been implemented and the results it has produced. Consideration of whether any further work is required. 31-Mar2017

How we carried out this audit

We carried out a performance audit to assess whether the Police have prepared an effective work programme for responding to the Commission's recommendations and to describe that programme.

Before starting our performance audit work, we spent time becoming familiar with the work performed by the Police. We observed Police work in three policing Areas4 and talked with a range of staff in those Areas. We provide more information in Appendix 2 on the ranks and functional responsibilities of police staff we spoke with as part of our audit fieldwork.

To assess the effectiveness of the Police's work programme, we conducted 44 interviews with police staff located in the Auckland region, in the Eastern District, and at Police National Headquarters in Wellington. We chose these locations because together they covered a selection of rural, provincial, urban, and metropolitan policing.

We also spoke with the New Zealand Police Association, the State Services Commission (SSC), and the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

We reviewed and analysed a range of Police documents, and we requested a wide range of statistical information from the Police. We also observed the Police's electronic system for recording progress with the responses to the Commission's recommendations.

The wide range of statistical information we requested included:

  • complaints against Police;
  • demographics of Police staff;
  • expenditure in Police bars;
  • performance management and disciplinary information;
  • satisfaction surveys; and
  • training done.

Much of this information has been used to inform this report. We might use some of it as a baseline to assess, later in our monitoring work, the extent to which some of this information has changed.

Our audit expectations

Potential strategies for influencing changes in the Police include recruitment (of people aligned with desired changes), rules (to encourage wanted behaviours), and community involvement (to increase external scrutiny and potential challenge of unwanted behaviours).5 These types of strategies need to be supported by appropriate leadership, including professional development, communication, and performance management systems.

We expected the Police to draw on all of these types of strategies and supporting systems to make organisational changes in line with the Commission's findings.

We expected the Police's response to the Commission's findings to involve significant organisational changes, building on some of the ongoing improvement work the Police were doing at the time of the Commission's inquiry. This ongoing improvement work was documented in the Commission's report. It is listed in Appendix 3.

As part of preparing an effective work programme, we expected the Police to have a view of what the organisation will look like in the future and what is required to align the organisation with this future. Part 2 sets out our findings on the direction of the Police's work programme.

We also expected the Police to address overlaps between projects, identify interdependencies, assign priorities, and make resources available to do the work. Part 3 sets out our findings on the Police's management of the work programme.

We expected the Police to be able to track progress in implementing the work programme, and any improvements resulting from it, through establishing appropriate monitoring mechanisms. Part 4 sets out our findings on the Police's monitoring of the work programme.

What we did not audit

We did not audit:

  • the responsibilities of the Commissioner of Police set out in section 16(2) of the Policing Act 2008, in which the Commissioner must act independently;
  • the competence or performance of individual police officers or other staff;
  • the Police's responses to individual complaints about police conduct;
  • the effectiveness of specific projects and initiatives in the Police's work programme, because we expect this to be the subject of one of our later monitoring reports; and
  • the sustainable improvements and outcomes resulting from the Police's work programme, because we expect these too to be the subject of one of our later monitoring reports.

About the New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police is a large organisation, with about 11,500 full-time equivalent staff.6 They provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the entire country through 12 Districts and through specialised units. Appendix 4 lists the Districts and units, with the total number of full-time equivalent staff in each.

The Police have direct contact with the public in a variety of ways. For example, in an average year they:

  • receive about 660,000 emergency (111) calls;
  • receive about 1,088,000 non-emergency calls;
  • respond to about 444,000 incidents;
  • investigate about 420,000 crimes; and
  • prosecute about 140,000 offenders.

The work of the Police is challenging. It can involve being in difficult situations where the safety of staff and others may be at risk. Such situations require police to exercise discretion, and appropriately use the Police's considerable powers. Appropriately using discretion involves exercising judgement and being accountable. A facilitator's training guide produced by the Royal New Zealand Police College notes that the “use of discretion is not based on personal values but needs to follow the rule of law, show impartiality and be mindful of public perception”.7 Appendix 5 outlines the functions and principles of policing.

Police staff with constabulary powers must act independently when enforcing the law. This places a high degree of individual responsibility on these staff, some of whom may have relatively little policing experience. The Police have told us that 15% of staff with constabulary powers have fewer than two years of service.

The Police have a hierarchical command and control structure. Senior constabulary staff are known as commissioned officers (COs). These include Inspectors, Superintendents, and a hierarchy of Commissioners. People in these positions, as well as some Police staff without constabulary powers, are the Police's senior managers at Area, District, and national levels.

Non-commissioned officers (NCOs), including Sergeants and Senior Sergeants, oversee staff working directly with the public. The staff working directly with the public are Constables. Constables comprise more than half of the Police's total workforce.

Figure 2 shows the number and percentage of staff by rank, gender, and average length of service.

Figure 2
Number of full-time equivalent staff by rank, gender, and average length of service (as at 30 June 2008)

Men Women Total Avg. length
of service

No. % No. %
Commissioner 1 100 0 0 1 33.4
Deputy Commissioner 1 50 1 50 2 33.4
Assistant Commissioner 8 100 0 0 8 30.9
Superintendent 46 88 6 12 52 30.7
Inspector 287 82 62 18 349 27.1
Senior Sergeant 400 85 69 15 469 22.6
Sergeant 1,304 86 205 14 1,509 18.7
Constable 5,266 78 1,487 22 6,753 9.1
Matron 0 0 1 100 1 -
Recruits 185 76 58 24 24 243 0.2
Not equivalent to sworn rank 548 27 1,477 73 2,025 -
Total 8,046 71 3,366 29 11,412

* This is the average length of service for staff with constabulary powers.
Source: New Zealand Police.

Communication throughout the hierarchy is a challenge for the Police, because of the large number of staff, the rank structure, wide geographical distribution, and high degrees of functional specialisation. This challenge was commonly identified by the people we interviewed. As one of our interviewees said, “communication through a chain of command has its problems – information can be misinterpreted or sifted out along the way”. Another told us that there was a “filtering mechanism” that takes place at each level in the chain of command.

1: “Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct”, media statement by Dame Margaret Bazley, 3 April 2007.

2: The State Services Commission was also given a monitoring role for some of the recommendations in the Commission of Inquiry's report. The specific recommendations are R37 (relating to performance management, discipline, and best practice in the public sector), R51 (relating to an organisational health audit of the Police), and R59 (relating to implementing and monitoring projects and best practice in the public sector). The State Services Commission's first report was published in November 2007. The report concluded that, while there were many positive aspects of change within the Police, it was too early to tell if the changes would be effective and sustainable.

3: It is important to note that approval of the specific elements of the 10-year programme depends on those elements being included in our Office's work plan for each year. The Auditor-General finalises the work plan for each year after consulting Parliament on the work plan's contents.

4: The Police divide the country into 12 Districts, and each District is further divided into a number of Areas.

5: Chan, Janet B L, (1997), Changing Police Culture: Policing in a Multicultural Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

6: Nearly 8500 of these staff have constabulary powers (previously called sworn officers). Constabulary powers include the power to arrest or search any person. Nearly 3000 of these staff do not have constabulary powers (previously called non-sworn staff). Of Police staff with constabulary powers, 17% are female. Of Police staff without constabulary powers, 65% are female.

7: Contemporary Policing in New Zealand (Discretion, ethics and professionalism) Facilitator's Guide – November 2008, Training and Development Group, The Royal New Zealand Police College, Porirua.

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