Part 1: Our conclusions

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

In this Part, we briefly set out:

This Part sets out the most important aspect of our findings – our overall conclusions about the approach the Police have taken, the type of progress the Police have made, and the risks to the Police of not achieving the outcomes that the Commission sought when making its recommendations.

This is the second in a series of monitoring reports, setting out the progress the Police are making as they work toward giving full effect to the Commission’s recommendations. Readers unfamiliar with the background to this report might find it helpful to refer to our first monitoring report, Response of the New Zealand Police to the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct: First monitoring report, which is available on our website (

More detailed information, about how and why we are monitoring the progress of the Police with the Commission’s recommendations, and our expectations of the Police, is set out in the appendices to this report.


The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

The Commission released its report in 2007. 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 to the Police about adult sexual assault.

The Commission’s findings included 60 recommendations. Most were for the Police, but some were for the then Police Complaints Authority (now the Independent Police Conduct Authority) and the State Services Commission.

The Commission’s report was clear that the attitudes and behaviours within the Police, and not just the systems and procedures, needed to change.

Bringing about changes to the attitudes and behaviours that are valued in an organisation can be difficult and usually takes a long time. The Commission recognised this, and recommended that we monitor the Police’s progress for 10 years. The Government at the time invited the Auditor-General to carry out the monitoring role, and the Auditor-General accepted the Government’s invitation.

The Police’s response to the Commission of Inquiry

Our first monitoring report was published in June 2009. At the time, the Police had responded in a committed manner to the Commission’s findings and were designing the next phase of their work programme. The Police described the next phase in responding to the Commission’s findings as an "implementation" phase.

In this second monitoring report, we assess the Police’s progress with their change programme, including the effectiveness of the changes they have made.

Challenges to making the necessary cultural changes

In our first monitoring report, we said that the Police would need to ensure that their implementation phase fully involved staff throughout all levels of the Police. The Police needed their staff, particularly those in management and supervisory roles, to:

  • use new systems and processes;
  • understand and support why these new systems and processes are necessary;
  • understand and demonstrate appropriate Police behaviour;
  • be willing and able to identify and report inappropriate Police behaviour; and
  • encourage and support colleagues to follow these same practices and demonstrate these same behaviours.

In our view, the Police need to continue to observe, reflect on, and critique the cultural changes they are making. Valuing their own and outsiders’ views on such progress is one of the important cultural changes the Police need to make.

A challenging environment

The environment in which the Police operate presents particular challenges to changing the culture of the organisation. Characteristics of this environment include:

  • a widely dispersed organisation that provides services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the whole country;
  • a devolved management structure in 12 Police districts;
  • a high level of discretion resting with individual police officers;
  • a high degree of political and public scrutiny; and
  • fiscal constraints and multiple priorities.

Fiscal constraints and multiple priorities

The Police told us that, since our first monitoring report, demands in addition to implementing the Commission’s recommendations have been placed on the Police. We were told that these demands required a complicated management focus in the context of:

  • recessionary conditions;
  • completing a growth strategy, including recruitment and training of additional staff ; and
  • a change of Government, with a full law and order programme.

We appreciate that the state sector is currently under considerable financial restraint, and that there may be pressure to reduce or use for other priorities the resources allocated to implementing the Commission’s recommendations. Despite these fiscal constraints and multiple priorities, we would be surprised if it were not among the Police’s highest priorities to ensure that adult sexual assault complaints and complaints against the Police are investigated properly, and that the Police are behaving appropriately.

Benefits of fully implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

Improved services for the public

The Commission’s recommendations aimed to improve the services the Police provide to the public – in particular, how the Police receive and investigate complaints against police officers, and adult sexual assault complaints.

In our view, if the Commission’s recommendations are fully implemented, the public could have confidence that:

  • complaints of adult sexual assault are properly received and investigated;
  • complaints against the Police are investigated openly and fully by the Police, and information is reported back to the complainant; and
  • the Police know what appropriate behaviour is, and take prompt and appropriate action when staff behave inappropriately.

If the Commission’s recommendations are not fully implemented, there is a risk that some victims may be denied justice, some types of crime may be perpetuated, and aspects of the Police’s service delivery may be of a poor quality.

Better support for the Police

Full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations will also benefit the Police by reducing the potential for police officers to let the Police down and negatively affect the reputation and integrity of the Police. This is important because the public’s co-operation and trust is essential for the Police to be effective. As the Police have noted:

… integrity and the public’s perception of integrity are the cornerstone of providing unbiased and effective policing.1

Even relatively minor instances of inappropriate behaviour by police officers can undermine confidence in the Police. One of the Police’s district policies states that:

… even small transgressions can seriously damage the reputation and standing of Police to a disproportionate level.2

In turn, public confidence and willingness to work with the Police can be affected, which can make the Police’s already difficult job harder.

Our expectations of the change process

The Commission’s recommendations

We carried out a performance audit to assess whether the Police have effectively implemented their work programme for responding to the Commission’s findings. This involved assessing the Police’s progress against our expectations for each of the Commission’s recommendations. Appendix 1 sets out our expectations for each of the Commission’s recommendations, as agreed with the Police.

Appendix 2 provides more detailed information about how and why we carried out our performance audit.

Activities and effectiveness

In our view, the implementation of the Commission’s recommendations is not complete until a policy, procedure, system or practice that is required to be prepared is in place, adhered to, functioning as intended, and matches a recommendation’s purpose. That is, the necessary activities have taken place and the Police know that those activities have had, or will have, the intended effect (see Figure 1). We acknowledge that the full effect may not be immediately apparent in some instances.

Figure 1
Implementing a change programme

Figure 1: Implementing a change programme.

In our view, considering a recommendation to be fully complete when all of the planned activities have taken place reflects a compliance or "tick box" approach rather than an improvement approach. We do not support a compliance approach for implementing the Commission’s recommendations.

We expect the Police, as part of their change programme, to track the activities they have carried out and the effect of these activities. We also expect the Police to compare the effect of the changes they make against the improvement purpose of the Commission’s recommendations.

What the New Zealand Police have changed so far

Some good work done

The Police have achieved much already, including implementing a new Code of Conduct and disciplinary system, consolidating corporate policies and procedures, implementing extensive training in adult sexual assault investigation, improving the completion rates of performance appraisals to high levels, and having and enforcing clear expectations about the use of information technology.

During our performance audit work, we also saw examples of committed and professional police officers and other employees working hard to uphold the integrity of the Police. The strong leadership and innovation being shown by some staff – police officers and other employees – is an important catalyst for change within the Police.

From implementation to business as usual

Since we reported on the Police’s change programme in our first monitoring report, they have moved management of the programme to "business as usual". This means the governance and management of the Police response to the Commission’s recommendations occurs through the same accountability and reporting lines as the Police use for their other work, but with some ongoing reporting of progress to the Police Executive.

The approach the Police have taken is consistent with the advice they have received from the State Services Commissioner.

Progress is at a critical stage

In our view, the implementation of the Police’s change programme is at a critical stage because of:

  • the length of time that it can take to achieve effective cultural change, and the vulnerability of cultural changes;
  • the Police’s assessment that they have completed many of the Commission’s recommendations when, in our view, there is work to be done to reliably embed the changes; and
  • the Police’s limited monitoring of the effect on service delivery of the activities they are carrying out, or have carried out, in response to the Commission’s recommendations.

Without more concerted effort now, there is a risk that the achievements of the change programme to date may not be maintained, and a risk that the necessary changes to Police culture will not be achieved.

Specific progress to date

Although the Police have done a lot of work already, there is still much to do. The amount of work remaining to be done should not be underestimated, especially given the long time effective cultural change can take.

We have examined the Police’s progress against each of the Commission’s recommendations. Part 2 sets out our detailed assessment of their progress.

Overall, we have assessed that the Police have fully implemented seven of the Commission’s 47 recommendations for the Police. This is a significant achievement. The recommendations the Police have fully implemented are:

  • enhancing their policy capability (recommendation R4);
  • having the Adult Sexual Assault Investigation Guidelines (the ASA Investigation Guidelines) accessible to staff (recommendation R10);
  • disestablishing the disciplinary tribunal system (recommendation R33);
  • implementing a Code of Conduct for all staff (recommendation R38);
  • amending the Sexual Harassment Policy (recommendation R39);
  • clarifying what is inappropriate email and Internet use (recommendation R41); and
  • consulting with and involving the State Services Commissioner to ensure that the Police’s projects take account of best practice in the public sector (recommendation R59).

It would be unreasonable to expect the Police to have fully achieved all of the changes envisaged by the Commission in about three years, because of the magnitude of the work required.

Although the Police have fully implemented seven of the Commission’s recommendations to date, they have made some progress in implementing all of the other 40 recommendations that we audited their progress against.

Although it is not possible to be definitive about the adequacy of the Police’s progress to date, we expected the Police to have made more progress in tracking the service improvements arising as a result of their changes.

What the New Zealand Police need to do next

We have identified that there is still much for the Police to do to strengthen how they manage the change programme, particularly focusing on embedding cultural change. This includes better helping staff to understand why change is necessary and the benefits of change, valuing and using complaints information, monitoring the effect on service delivery of the changes they are making, and improving the behaviour of some police officers. There is also a range of actions the Police need to take to progress some of the Commission’s specific recommendations. Collectively, these are the subjects of our 13 recommendations for the Police (see our recommendations section).

Help staff understand and support the need for change

Ideally, all police officers would support the changes recommended by the Commission because of the resulting improvements for the public and the benefits for the Police. However, there is a risk that some police officers view the Commission’s changes as a compliance exercise, at best to be complied with or at worst to be resisted. The Police have told us that this is not surprising, given the number of Police staff . However, a compliance approach, without the necessary cultural change, will not ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are fully implemented.

During the course of our audit, we saw evidence of potential pockets of reservation or resistance to enacting or complying with the Commission’s recommendations. In our view, the Police still have further work to do to help some staff better understand and accept why change is necessary. This involves helping a critical mass of staff understand the benefits to the Police of the changes, including the difficulties of policing without public confidence and co-operation, and the improvements to aspects of Police service delivery that are necessary.

This work involves changing aspects of the organisation’s culture, and requires strong leadership. We were impressed with the strong leadership and innovation shown by particular police officers. This is a good base on which to build further progress, and means that the Police should be able to encourage a sense of pride in providing a high standard of service to all New Zealanders.

When discussing the importance of the Commission’s recommendations to the Police’s service delivery, one of the police officers we interviewed said:

What is our core business? Safety and accountability. Society needs that message – if you do a crime, or inappropriate activity with women and children, we’re coming to see you.

Value complaints information more, and actively use it

The Police told us that they use in their work the advice and input of a lot of external people. We accept that this is the case.

In our view, the Police need to be more receptive to outside scrutiny, particularly through receiving complaints, involving more external people in ethics committees, and obtaining more feedback about police behaviour and service delivery through community engagement. The information obtained through these means needs to be actively valued and used.

We acknowledge that relying on complaints and public opinion as a barometer of performance can be problematic in an organisation that can remove people’s liberty. However, having the public’s confidence is more critical for the Police to be able to perform their job than for most other organisations and professions. The content and nature of complaints can provide useful information about public confidence, and can also provide information about the changes occurring within the Police.

Monitor the effect of changes on service delivery

The Police need to understand the effect of the activities they have carried out, and are carrying out, in response to the Commission’s recommendations. This requires some form of ongoing monitoring. We made recommendations about this in our first monitoring report.

We acknowledge that the Police have a number of surveys and reporting mechanisms in place that can be used to monitor change within the Police. These have a particular focus on staff engagement, complaints, and customer service. But the Police have not yet put in place effective monitoring mechanisms for monitoring the improvements to service delivery resulting from the changes they are making. For example, the Police are not tracking the improvements to service delivery that affect adult sexual assault complainants’ experiences of dealing with the Police, improvements in community engagement and feedback on service delivery, or improvements in leadership and guidance on ethical issues within the Police.

Without appropriate monitoring of the effect of changes on service delivery, it is difficult for the Police or others to be sure that the changes put in place are complied with, that they are making the expected progress, or whether they have achieved the desired results. Being effective includes improved policing for New Zealanders and a better standard of service from the Police. Without appropriate monitoring, efforts may be wasted, opportunities may be missed, and resources may not be appropriately targeted.

Improved monitoring should also help the Police to provide more meaningful reports to Ministers and the public on their progress with implementing the Commission’s recommendations. This includes being able to state with certainty whether the progress made has been effective and what that effect has been.

Improve behaviour

Although the Police have a relatively high level of public confidence, this can easily be undermined by incidents that reflect badly on the actual or perceived integrity of the Police. These incidents also have the potential to put the public at risk.

The Police disciplinary records that we viewed during our performance audit indicate that there are police officers still engaging in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature. Importantly, these records also showed that the Police have considered this behaviour to be inappropriate.

Ideally, there would be no inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature by police officers. In our view, the Police need to foster a workplace culture that does not tolerate sexually inappropriate behaviour by police officers, and continue to respond decisively and immediately to this behaviour when it occurs.

Make progress to implement key recommendations

As well as the management and cultural issues we have discussed above, we have identified some important matters that the Police need to give further attention to, to progress their implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. These are:

  • better understanding the extent to which the ASA Investigation Guidelines are being implemented and better understanding of complainants’ experiences with these ASA Investigation Guidelines;
  • using complaints information and making it easier for complainants to report allegations of inappropriate behaviour by police officers;
  • making full use of the proactive functionality in the Police’s electronic complaints recording system to enable early identification of inappropriate police behaviour and potential pockets of reservation or resistance to change; and
  • improving operation of the Police’s performance management and disciplinary system.

Other changes we encourage the Police to make are noted throughout Part 2.

What we will do next

We will continue to monitor the Police’s progress with responding to the Commission’s recommendations. We will report on the Police’s progress with the recommendations from our first two monitoring reports through our annual follow-up reports for performance audits. We will report in 2011/12 on the Police’s progress with the recommendations we made in our first (2009) monitoring report. We will report in 2012/13 on the Police’s progress with our recommendations in this second (2010) monitoring report.

We intend to publish our third monitoring report on the Police’s progress in 2011/12.

1: See

2: Canterbury District Order # 10: Early Interventions Policy.

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