Part 1: Introduction

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

In this Part, we explain:

This is the fourth in a series of reports monitoring the progress of the New Zealand Police (the Police) towards giving full effect to the Commission's recommendations. Readers unfamiliar with the background to this work might find it helpful to refer to our earlier reports, which are available on our website ( We plan to publish our final monitoring report in 2017.

This report is more targeted than our previous reports. It follows up on matters raised in our third monitoring report. For this report, we looked at how the Police have improved how they manage adult sexual assault investigations and breaches of standards of police behaviour. We also make some wider observations about how well the Police are implementing the spirit and intent of the Commission's recommendations through broader efforts to change their workplace culture.

Within the Police workforce, some staff are officers with policing powers and others are general employees. In this report, the distinction is sometimes important, so we use different terms. The organisation is "the Police". When we refer to all employees, we use "police staff". When we refer specifically to officers with full policing powers, we use "police officers".

The Commission and our monitoring work have focused on sexual assault complaints and investigations involving adults. Every reference in this report to sexual assault refers to adult sexual assault.

The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

The Commission released its report in 2007. The Commission's report criticised the historical conduct of some police officers and their associates from 1979 to 2004. The conduct included inappropriate sexual activity and a culture of scepticism about complaints to the Police about sexual assaults.

The Commission's report included 47 recommendations for the Police. The Commission's report was clear that attitudes and behaviour within the Police, and not just their systems and procedures, needed to change.

The Commission recognised that changing behaviour in an organisation is difficult and takes time. It recommended that we monitor the Police's progress for 10 years. The then Auditor-General accepted the Government's invitation to carry out the monitoring role.

The Police's response to the Commission's recommendations

We published our first monitoring report in June 2009. At that time, the Police had responded in a committed manner to the Commission's recommendations and were designing the next phase of their work programme. The Police described that next phase as an "implementation" phase.

We published our second report in June 2010. Although the Police had made significant progress by fully implementing seven of the 47 recommendations, the Police's response was at a critical point. Without more concerted effort, there was a risk that progress would stall, the achievements of the Police's work programme to that point would dissipate, and the benefits of change would not be realised.

We published our third monitoring report in October 2012. We found signs of improvement, including:

  • increased priority and resourcing of investigations of adult sexual assaults;
  • a soon-to-be-operating national early intervention system (Early Intervention) to alert the Police to behaviour by police officers that could potentially lead to more serious inappropriate behaviour;
  • some good practices for managing change and inappropriate behaviour; and
  • the Police were monitoring their progress with the 47 recommendations (and had accepted that recommendations were not fully implemented until the desired results had been achieved).

Our third monitoring report also found that the Police had made relatively poor progress with improving services for adult victims of sexual assault. We also found mixed progress with addressing complaints about the Police. We made five recommendations. Figure 1 shows these recommendations and where, in this report, we comment on the Police's progress with implementing them.

Figure 1
Recommendations in our third monitoring report and where we discuss the Police's progress with them in this report

We recommended that the New Zealand Police:
1 give their adult sexual assault investigation work the necessary attention, priority, and resourcing to further progress the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct's recommendations about adult sexual assault investigation; Paragraphs 2.8-2.12
2 implement their catch-up plans for specialist training for adult sexual assault investigation so that all staff who could be involved in or supervise such investigations complete that training by 31 December 2012; Paragraphs 2.13-2.24
3 [with the Accident Compensation Corporation, the Ministry of Health, and the South Canterbury District Health Board] resolve any outstanding issues with the availability of Sexual Abuse Assessment and Treatment Services in the area serviced by the South Canterbury District Health Board to ensure that people in that area have access to those services; Paragraphs 2.7, 2.39-2.42
4 maintain their focus on ensuring that misconduct is not tolerated, supporting those who report misconduct, and managing misconduct when it does happen; and Paragraphs 3.12-3.23
5 fully implement their national early intervention system (Early Intervention) by 31 December 2012 and actively manage the risks associated with how that system is perceived and used. Paragraphs 3.7, 3.25-3.30

How we carried out our audit

Our performance audit focused on two questions:

  • Have the Police improved how they investigate sexual assaults since our previous monitoring report?
  • Have the Police improved how they manage behaviour since our previous monitoring report?

We also asked questions about whether the wider cultural and practice changes within the Police since our previous monitoring report were in line with the spirit and intent of the Commission's recommendations.

To assess the Police's progress, we:

  • interviewed about 250 police staff located in the Wellington, Tasman, Bay of Plenty, and Counties Manukau police districts, at Police National Headquarters, and at the Royal New Zealand Police College in Wellington;
  • observed the Police's use of District Command Assessments in Auckland and Christchurch to assess each police district's performance in terms of the Police's direction and strategy;
  • spoke with representatives of the New Zealand Police Association, the State Services Commission, the Independent Police Conduct Authority, Rape Crisis, Women's Refuge, and Counselling Services (Counties Manukau); members of the Commissioner of Police's Women's Advisory Network Governance Group; and a former Commissioner of Police;
  • reviewed and analysed about 140 police documents, including survey, statistical, and monitoring documents; and
  • spoke to two leaders from the sexual assault support community, Louise Nicholas and Dr Kim McGregor (Rape Prevention Education: Whakatū Mauri).

What we did not audit

We did not audit:

  • the competence or performance of police officers or staff;
  • the Police's responses to individual complaints about police staff conduct; or
  • progress with any of the Commission's recommendations that were outside the scope of our audit (see paragraph 1.3).

Structure of this report

We expected the Police to have addressed the matters we raised in our third monitoring report. This report is structured to reflect those matters. Part 2 sets out our findings about investigating allegations of adult sexual assaults. Part 3 sets out our findings about how the Police are managing staff behaviour.

The Police's workplace culture is critical to investigating sexual assaults and managing behaviour. Part 4 sets out our observations about the Police's efforts to improve their workplace culture. Part 5 describes the work that we consider the Police need to do to build on and firmly establish the desired workplace culture.

We have made suggestions to help the Police identify and manage matters that could impede their progress towards an improved workplace culture. These suggestions are listed in the Appendix.

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