Part 5: Police behaviour

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

Ideally, there would be no inappropriate behaviour of a sexual or other nature by police officers and other police staff. The Police need to foster a workplace culture where inappropriate behaviour by police officers is not tolerated and to continue to respond decisively and immediately to inappropriate behaviour when it occurs.

We expected the Police to support good behaviour, and manage poor behaviour, of staff by:

  • improving the behaviour of the relatively small number of police officers whose behaviour is inconsistent with the Code of Conduct, including sexually inappropriate behaviour;
  • making full use of the functionality in the Police's early intervention system to identify inappropriate police behaviour and potential pockets of reservation or resistance to change; and
  • improving the operating of the Police's performance management and disciplinary system.

Some progress made to improve police behaviour since 2010

The Police have made some progress to improve police behaviour, but a national early intervention system is not yet in place.

As part of implementing that system, the Police need to do more to manage the risks associated with inappropriate use and lack of full understanding of the preventative and supportive purpose of the system. This includes managing the safety risk, to the public and Police, if a police officer decides not to use a particular tactical intervention to avoid being listed on the system – for example, not using pepper spray to stop a dog attacking and biting a colleague. Or, if a police officer charges an offender with "resisting arrest" rather than with "assaulting Police" because the officer does not want to incur an assault mark in the system.

There is still a level of inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature within the Police. This behaviour is being managed once it has occurred. There is also still a level of harassment reported, including sexual harassment.

The Police have taken a number of actions to improve the operation of their performance management and disciplinary system. This includes some excellent individual leadership. However, the completion rate for performance appraisals appears to have fallen, after a concentrated effort in 2010/11 increased the completion rate markedly.

Details of the limited progress to improve police behaviour

Improving behaviour using the Code of Conduct

In 2010, we outlined our expectation that the Police improve the behaviour of the relatively small number of police officers whose behaviour, including sexually inappropriate behaviour, was inconsistent with the Code of Conduct.

A culture of reporting inappropriate conduct is slowly emerging

Further to our comment in paragraphs 2.17-2.22 about complaints against police staff by police staff, some interviewees told us that people are more willing to challenge inappropriate behaviour than they used to be and that there is much less inappropriate behaviour occurring. This viewpoint is consistent with the findings of the State Services Commission's public-sector-wide surveys of integrity and conduct in 2007 and 2010. These showed an increase in the reporting of misconduct within the Police during that period.

We also saw records of police staff reporting inappropriate off-duty and on-duty behaviour by other police staff. However, some interviewees told us that it is difficult to protect people who make a complaint. The 2011 and 2012 workforce surveys showed that the proportion of staff who know who to contact to report instances of workplace harassment, bullying, or discrimination is higher than the proportion of staff who were confident that they could raise such concerns without fear of reprisal. The proportion who were confident that they could raise such concerns without fear of reprisal was in turn higher than the proportion who were confident that any concerns they raised would be dealt with appropriately. Importantly, all of these proportions increased between the 2011 and 2012 surveys. This suggests some improvement. Figure 5 shows the survey results.

Figure 5
Results from the Police workforce surveys in 2011 and 2012 about respect and integrity in the workplace

Question Performance score (weighted mean scores)
2011 results 2012 results Absolute difference
I know who to contact to report instances of workplace harassment, bullying, or discrimination. 73.4% 75.8% +2.4
I am confident that I could raise concerns I had related to workplace harassment, bullying, or discrimination without fear of reprisal. 65.9% 69.3% +3.4
I am confident that any concerns I may need to raise regarding harassment, bullying, discrimination, or other inappropriate conduct would be dealt with appropriately. 63.0% 66.5% +3.5

Source: Kenexa | JRA (2012), NZ Police Workforce Survey 2012: Report of Findings, page 18.

In our 2010 report, we recommended that the Police add to the Code of Conduct "failure to report wrongdoing by a fellow police officer as an example of misconduct and/or serious misconduct". This is because we considered that this could help the Police to foster a culture that encourages reporting of allegations of wrongdoing.

The Police have not amended the Code of Conduct since it was published in 2008. But a draft Challenging police misconduct (integrity reporting) policy dated 27 January 2011 proposes that police employees be obliged to challenge and report instances "of what they believe, on reasonable grounds, to be misconduct". This policy is intended to cover situations not covered by the Protected Disclosures Act 2000. At the time of our fieldwork, the Police anticipated adding the Challenging police misconduct (integrity reporting) policy to the Police Manual in 2012.

Ethics and Code of Conduct training is provided

Ethics training is provided to all police recruits. Ethics, values, and the Code of Conduct are covered in their first week of training. As part of that training, recruits complete an assignment addressing an ethical issue. Ethics training is also part of the training required for Sergeants.

Although not relating solely to training delivered by the Police's training service centre, there is evidence of significant increases in awareness of integrity and conduct standards and how to address those. In 2010, all police staff were aware of written standards of integrity and conduct, compared with 90% of staff in 2007. Awareness of integrity and conduct training increased from 75% of staff in 2007 to 93% in 2010. More staff also knew where to get advice about integrity and conduct issues in 2010 than in 2007, up from 47% to 68%. The 2010 findings were above the state sector average13 in all respects, and in some respects well above that average. These are commendable improvements.

An active focus on managing behaviour needs to be maintained

The Code of Conduct was introduced in 2008. Accountability and systems to support its use are in place. We know that complaints have consequences for the people involved, where these complaints are substantiated.

For example, since the introduction of the Code of Conduct, the Southern district has held four serious misconduct hearings into complaints. Another five investigations resulted in staff leaving the Police.14

In the Bay of Plenty, 49 misconduct cases were pursued in 2010/11. Nearly half resulted in warnings to the staff involved, and eight staff left the Police. Although this tells us that behaviour contrary to the Code of Conduct persists, it also tells us that the behaviour is managed when it does occur.

We heard that the culture in the Police is changing. In particular, the attitude to alcohol was cited. We were told that the "boozing culture is dying" and "That's a culture that's gone by the by. If you're a heavy drinker, it's because you're a heavy drinker and not the system you work in."

On the other hand, the Area Commander in the Bay of Plenty felt the need to issue a district alcohol order in July 2011 to clarify expectations around on- and off-duty behaviour and the place of alcohol in police-sponsored events. Behaviour seems to be improving, and active management is an important component of that improvement. However, as the Bay of Plenty example suggests, this management needs to be consistent if momentum is not to be lost.

Recommendation 4

We recommend that the New Zealand Police maintain their focus on ensuring that misconduct is not tolerated, supporting those who report misconduct, and managing misconduct when it does happen.

The level of sexually inappropriate behaviour by police officers should be further reduced

In our fieldwork, we looked for any trends in the annual number of upheld complaints of a sexual nature against police officers reported by the public and from within the Police. We expected to find that the number of criminal convictions of police officers for sexual offences is falling and is less on a proportional basis than for the equivalent population as a whole.

We obtained information on the level of inappropriate sexual behaviour by police officers from multiple sources:

  • information about criminal convictions of police officers released by the Police under the Official Information Act 1982;
  • serious complaints against the Police that have been reported to the Police Executive Committee;
  • complaints information sourced from the IAPro software application (see paragraphs 5.33-5.35); and
  • survey and exit interview information about levels of harassment.

Although the level of sexually inappropriate behaviour and harassment would ideally be none – even in an organisation of 12,500 people – the information suggests that this is not the case.

Tracking, analysing, and responding to sexually inappropriate behaviour is part of the Police's overall performance management and disciplinary systems.

Criminal convictions in the Police are at very low levels

The Police provided us with information about criminal convictions in the Police since 2006. The total rate of conviction of police staff is lower than for the general population. The same is true for sexual assault and related offences.

The information provided to us indicates that there has been one conviction of a member of the Police for a sexual assault or related offence between 2006 and 2011.

Serious complaints are monitored by the Police Executive Committee, including sexual misconduct

Serious complaints about sexually inappropriate behaviour continue to be made against the Police by the public and colleagues, but in low numbers. The Police Executive Committee monitors all serious misconduct monthly, which indicates that these complaints are considered of considerable significance to the organisation.

Thirteen upheld instances of sexual misconduct by police staff were recorded as serious complaints in 2011. It is difficult to draw conclusions on trends in, and the distribution of, this behaviour, on the basis of the small numbers involved.

Inquiry into a police officer or associate

One of the Commission's recommendations related to ensuring that proper inquiry is always made when information received indicates that a police officer or associate might have committed a sexual offence. We have not comprehensively reviewed the investigation files of police officers alleged to have committed offences.

We identified nothing in the material we reviewed or discussions we had to indicate that anything other than proper inquiry is made when allegations are made against a police officer.

Sexual harassment is still occurring

The Police have participated in the State Services Commission's public sector-wide surveys of integrity and conduct in 2007 and 2010. The results show that, from 2007 to 2010, more police staff who observed misconduct of any kind reported it than in 2007. Also, the percentage of police staff who observed sexual harassment reduced to 8% in 2010 from 11% in 2007.

These trends indicate a decline in inappropriate behaviour within the organisation and/or an increase in the challenging of inappropriate behaviour when it is observed. It is important to acknowledge that these surveys report perceived harassment. These are not necessarily cases of harassment that have been proven through an investigation.

Despite these positive results, exit interviews indicated that 4% of staff leaving the Police had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment during the last five years and that the amount of harassment was higher during those five years than in the person's first five years in the Police. Harassment was reported as being particularly high in some locations and groups.

Of concern was that, during exit interviews, no constabulary staff said that they had reported the sexual harassment incidents they had experienced or witnessed. All non-constabulary staff, interviewed on exiting the Police, said that they reported the sexual harassment they had experienced or witnessed.

Complaints management

IAPro is an electronic system that can be used to record and manage complaints, and to generate early identification of possible behavioural problems with police officers.15 IAPro is used by more than 250 agencies worldwide. The Police have been using it to help manage the complaints process since May 2009, but they have not yet begun using IAPro to provide an early intervention system.

IAPro can show the total number of complaints against the Police and against individual officers.

IAPro can also allow a police officer to be notified when a complaint is made against them. This may not always have happened in the past. For example, we were told that, sometimes when Code of Conduct investigations start, police officers are told of previous complaints to the IPCA (and its predecessor organisation) that they were not aware of.

Early intervention is not yet working adequately

In our 2010 report, we noted that the "Police have put in place a specialised software application that has the capacity to record complaints against individual police officers, the number of those complaints, and the number of complainants. The implementation of this approach is still in its early stages."

We recommended that the Police start to fully use the early intervention functionality of IAPro as soon as practicable, at both national and district levels, to regularly and systematically identify and follow up on any inappropriate behaviour and resistance to change.

The purpose of an early intervention system is to identify employees at risk of engaging in misconduct. The system will "identify employees with performance/conduct issues, which do not meet the threshold for performance management or discipline". The aim is to use rehabilitative interventions to reduce the likelihood of such employees engaging in misconduct and coming to the attention of the disciplinary system or complaints process.

The system, once implemented, should provide a single source of information about police officers that not only tracks complaints against them but also brings together other data that indicate the need for early intervention to prevent escalation of behaviour to the point where disciplinary processes are needed.

Less progress than anticipated with implementing a national early intervention system

The national early intervention system is not yet operating, although plans are in place for rollout of the system. IAPro technology, which will be the basis of the system, is being used to manage complaints information.

Implementation of IAPro to assist with early intervention is not as far progressed as we anticipated, given the Police's confidence in their progress at the time of our 2010 report. In August 2011, the Police Executive Committee approved the implementation of an early intervention system using IAPro. It was envisaged that it would be completed by December 2011.

The implementation of IAPro to provide that centralised early intervention system has since been delayed a year, to December 2012. We were given a number of reasons for this delay. The two major reasons were the capacity of the vendor to support implementation and the need to complete all the human resource policies, communications, and training needed to enable effective use of the early intervention system.

The Police have continued work on implementing IAPro since our last report. The system is now available nationwide, and the supporting software (BlueTeam) is used in all districts. Districts can view their own cases, and the Area Commander has access to all cases in the system.

Other work has been completed to support the implementation, such as the technical work on extracting information from other databases for collation in IAPro. A set of potential factors for collation in IAPro has been identified, but the relative weighting of those factors had not yet been determined at the time of our fieldwork.

District early intervention systems exist, but they are not comprehensive or consistent

In the absence of IAPro, there are local systems in place for providing early interventions. Nine of the 12 districts have an early intervention system in some form, including both of the districts we visited.

Early intervention processes are having unintended consequences

The need to keep the early intervention system focused on learning and rehabilitation, as distinct from performance management and disciplinary procedures, is a message that we heard repeatedly from managers we spoke to and that we saw in police policies.

We were told, for example, that the Police Executive Committee had decided that the information should not be used for appointment processes and performance monitoring. Any information that would be needed for performance management systems should be put there separately by the supervisors concerned. We were told that no formal records would be kept of early interventions on individual personnel files.

However, there were also contradictory messages. Most of what we heard from staff about early intervention conveyed distrust of the approach. The strongest indication of this was concern that its existence could be motivating some risk-averse behaviours, such as officers avoiding use of physical tactics to avoid having too many such actions registered against their name because this would trigger an early intervention.

This is clearly a difficult issue for the Police. Consistent communication about the purpose of the early intervention system, and rigour and consistency around its use, will be important.

Recommendation 5

We recommend that the New Zealand Police fully implement their national early intervention system by 31 December 2012 and actively manage the risks associated with how that system is perceived and used.

Using community feedback

The Police do not currently incorporate community feedback on service delivery and policing issues into the early intervention system unless that feedback is a complaint (see paragraphs 4.61-4.62).

Performance management

We expected that the State Service Commission's monitoring of the Police's response to the Commission's recommendations would show that the Police had adequate, standardised, and public sector best practice performance management and disciplinary systems. We also expected the Police to have made progress against our earlier recommendations.

To help to foster a workplace culture that does not tolerate sexually inappropriate behaviour, we had recommended that the Police:

  • enhance supervisors' and managers' capability to discourage sexually inappropriate behaviour and to take necessary disciplinary action when it does occur;
  • regularly track, analyse, and respond to trends in the incidence of such behaviour; and
  • increase supervisors' and managers' capability to effectively operate the performance management, improvement, and appraisal systems and, in particular, to conduct meaningful performance appraisals.

We have discussed the multiple sources of information for tracking sexually inappropriate behaviour by police staff in paragraphs 5.19-5.32.

Developing performance management capability

The Police's own training for supervisors provides a solid definition of good performance management. It defines performance management as "processes and practices that develop staff, grow individual and organisational capability as well as the processes and practices that address poor performance". It defines good performance management as setting performance standards and expectations, having regular conversations, and targeted supervision to achieve the required performance. It implies that having to move into formal performance management is not ideal.

If performance management capability were increasing in the Police, we would expect to see improved performance from individuals and the organisation in meeting expectations, reduced poor performance (such as instances of inappropriate behaviour), and less use of formal performance management.

We would also expect police staff to feel that they were well managed, that their performance standards and expectations were clear, that they were having regular conversations and targeted supervision as necessary, and that disciplinary processes were followed when they needed to be.

Increased capability in performance management (including disciplinary processes) is actively promoted within the Police, and there is some anecdotal evidence of it building. However, there is still further progress to make and little formal evidence of improvement beyond the workforce survey.

The importance of performance management and the use of the systems is recognised at senior levels and is being actively promoted

We heard several people say that good people management was rare but improving. We formed the impression that there is good awareness of the scale of the shift in performance management that needs to happen. Examples of what we were told included:

The performance management of supervisory staff is an issue. The organisation finds it unpalatable to deal with. It has been lacking for so long that the introduction of normal management processes has been seen as harassment by some staff.

Show me a Sergeant and I'll show you their team. If they're not a good people manager, then the people in their team are not very good. New constables end up with performance management issues by default.

During our fieldwork, we heard from leaders that a focus on performance management was an important expression of leadership and evidence of a thoughtful and active approach to improving that leadership through clarity of expectations and increased focus on performance management:

These [performance appraisals and appointment processes] are processes that have long been around and haven't been stuck to. Fix these two and the rest has sorted itself out.

Examples of improvements to these processes were the district and area leaders who focused on using existing performance management systems to address concerns with "cronyism" and lack of transparency. In the Bay of Plenty, acting positions (an important development opportunity) are now appointed only after an expression of interest process, in contrast to the previous "shoulder tapping".

As part of its monitoring, the State Services Commission requested information from the Police about the cascading of key result areas from senior staff to their direct reports (a standard system for integrating performance management into the business). The responses showed variable amounts of key result areas cascading down. This means that important strategic priorities may not be reflected in some performance agreements.

The Police have extensive training courses and written resources available for staff in supervisory and management roles, such as Sergeants, Senior Sergeants, and Inspectors. Training in performance management is provided at national and district level. Recruits are also trained in what to expect from performance management.

The people providing the training are developing their approach and resources, and the quality of the training is continually reviewed. The training material describes standards for good and bad performance management practices and behaviours.

The results of all this effort are partly apparent in the 2012 workforce survey. The Police have gone from well below the state sector benchmark in understanding how their performance is measured in 2011, to being only 1% behind. There has also been a shift in the perception that "performance is fairly assessed" from below the state sector benchmark to slightly above.

Also, in the year up to the 2012 survey, there was a near 5% increase in the percentage of respondents who consider that people are appointed to positions based on merit – although that means that only 48% have that view. The Police are well above the state sector benchmark in 2012 for agreeing that "poor performance is dealt with effectively in my work group". Looking back at the Police's own definition of performance management, this suggests improvement in the approach, at least in the view of staff.

During our fieldwork, we were told that the Police are very good at telling staff when they have got it wrong, but not at positive feedback. A number of people told us that formal performance reviews could be useful and that management could be good, but more said they were a "tick-box" exercise. We also heard mixed reports about informal feedback.

Performance appraisal completion has reduced

We note that the Police do not appear to have maintained their previous effort in completing performance reviews. We noted in our second report that, after completing 80% of performance reviews at the time of our first report, the Police had achieved 98%.

However, the Police's own systems show that only 86% of staff had a performance review noted for the 2010/11 year. We find this disappointing, even without information about the quality of the reviews that have taken place.

Because performance appraisals have been heavily relied on when police staff apply for other roles, there developed a practice of "marking for export", where positive appraisals have been written to help people get jobs in other areas.

This practice is recognised as a problem, and people are speaking out against it. We were told that performance appraisals are no longer used in promotion application processes, removing the ability to "mark for export" through this mechanism.

Implementation of Performance Improvement Plans slowly improving

The Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) is a mechanism the Police use, as well as the usual development plans for individuals, to focus on a person's skill, knowledge, or behaviour that needs improvement. A staff member can be placed on a PIP because of a performance management discussion, an early intervention, or the outcome of some kind of disciplinary process. The PIP is part of formal performance management, but it is not a disciplinary measure in itself – it is a tool to focus on improvement.

Despite this, PIPs have a negative reputation among some of the staff we spoke to. Those who have wider experience of them were of the view that they can be very supportive and transform poor performers. They also noted that people who have had a negative perception of a PIP can change their view once they have completed a PIP successfully.

The negative perception of PIPs may have been enhanced by the problems with ensuring that they are completed by supervisors as much as by the staff member. The Police, in their analysis, have found a number of instances where districts sought to discipline employees for breaching their PIPs, but the supervisor had failed to meet their obligations under the plan. Disciplinary action cannot be taken unless the Police have met their requirements under a PIP "such as monitoring an employee and giving them feedback etc".

In our 2010 report, we stated that we expected the Police to have methods to ensure that follow-up identified in the PIPs actually occurs. The Police have told us that there is no central database of information on the number of PIPs issued and completed. This needs to improve.

There has been effort to build performance improvement systems and improve use of disciplinary systems

Leadership frameworks, talent management systems, and mentoring policies and programmes are in place, and a coaching training programme is being considered. A development board was created in September 2009 to provide national oversight for selection of police staff for high-value/high-cost development opportunities. It considers all staff from Inspector level (Band 2) and above, and women and minority staff from Senior Sergeant level (Band J).

A senior executive workshop was run on conducting effective performance reviews. One of the objectives was to understand the importance of effective performance review in lifting the overall organisational performance for the Police.

We saw evidence of management of disciplinary issues. For example, of 32 complaints that were registered about inappropriate use of information, 13 resulted in final warnings and 15 resulted in resignations. The Police recorded that, when they were taken to the Employment Relations Authority over the conduct of a dismissal under the Code of Conduct, the Authority endorsed their process in its judgement. Both the Southern and Bay of Plenty districts provided us with extensive information about the disciplinary issues within their districts and how they were managed.

We were left with the impression of a number of good initiatives, but our evidence did not show us that these were developed with a complete understanding of what was to be achieved. We found evidence of national policies and training and resources, but little evidence of measurement of progress.

We consider that this is an area where the Police need to maintain focus and effort to achieve implementation of the Commission's relevant recommendations in full.

13: The definition of state sector used here differs from that used in the workforce surveys referred to earlier in this report. As used here, it refers to the agencies that participated in the New Zealand State Services Integrity and Conduct Survey. It consists of four types of public entity: public service departments, Crown entities, district health boards, and "other Crown entities". See for further information.

14: The information on employment hearings and investigations for the two districts provided in paragraphs 5.15 and 5.16 may not be strictly comparable.

15: The Internal Affairs Professional (or IAPro) software helps "public safety agencies in identifying potential problems early on, so that proactive action can be taken. IAPro ensures the most efficient handling of citizen complaints, administrative investigations, use-of-force reporting, and other types of incidents, while providing the means to analyse and identify areas of concern" (see

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