Part 1: Introduction

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

In this Part, we outline:

The Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct

In 2004, the Government set up the Commission to carry out a full and independent investigation into how the New Zealand Police (the Police) had dealt with claims of sexual assault by police staff and associates of the Police. The inquiry followed serious public allegations that police officers had deliberately undermined or mishandled sexual assault investigations of other police officers.

The Commission's report, released in April 2007, found systemic flaws that needed attention from both police management and government. The report's findings included 47 recommendations for the Police. We have included these 47 recommendations, grouped into four themes, in Appendix 1.

The Commission was clear that police attitudes and behaviour, not just their methods 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 and regularly report to Parliament. The then Auditor-General accepted the Government's invitation to carry out the monitoring role.1

This is our fifth and final report in a series of reports2 monitoring how the Police have put the Commission's recommendations into effect.

Our previous monitoring reports

We published our first monitoring report in June 2009. At the time, the Police had responded with commitment 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 completing seven of the 47 recommendations, their 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 recede, and the Police would not realise the benefits of the changes.

We published our third report in October 2012. There were signs of improvement, including more resources for sexual assault investigations and good practices for managing change and inappropriate behaviour. The Police had accepted that the Commission's recommendations would not be complete until the Police achieved the intended results. However, we also saw little improvement in services for adult victims of sexual assault (adult sexual assault) and mixed progress on addressing complaints about police staff.

We published our fourth report in February 2015. The Police had made good progress in addressing the five recommendations from our third report. The Police had also improved in:

  • investigating adult sexual assault, including an increased focus on the needs of victims;
  • encouraging high standards of behaviour and responding to inappropriate behaviour by police staff; and
  • changing the culture of the Police by having a more diverse workforce and upholding the official values of the organisation.

How we carried out our fifth and final audit

We looked at the changes the Police have made in the last 10 years and the effect that these changes have had. We also looked at how the Police plan to continue their progress once our monitoring role ends. Our final monitoring report has a stronger focus on the future than earlier reports.

To see whether the Police was a better organisation for the public and police staff, we focused our audit on four themes. The four themes were:

  • investigation of adult sexual assault allegations, including how the Police treat victims;
  • how the Police respond to complaints about their staff;
  • police staff performance management, including how the Police deal with inappropriate behaviour and how the Police promote their values; and
  • the diversity, inclusiveness, and organisational health of the Police and the experiences of women and people from minority groups who work for the Police.

To examine these themes, we:

  • interviewed a cohort of people who graduated in 2007 as police officers from the Royal New Zealand Police College (the Police College). We wanted to know about their experience of working for the Police in the last 10 years. In 2017, they were working in police districts throughout the country, in different policing roles, and at varying levels of seniority. The cohort also included a few people who no longer worked for the Police;
  • reviewed samples of cases about complaints against police staff members and adult sexual assault investigation cases;
  • analysed data about adult sexual assault investigations, complaints against police staff, and the diversity and organisational health in the Police;
  • observed meetings between the Police Commissioner and senior staff in Wellington and Bay of Plenty;
  • reviewed and analysed about 200 documents from the Police and other organisations, including reports about the Police by the State Services Commission and other authoritative sources;
  • interviewed representatives of support groups for victims of adult sexual assault, including the Chief Victims Advisor to the Government;
  • ran a focus group at a conference for co-ordinators of adult sexual assault investigations at the Police College; and
  • interviewed senior police staff, the Police Association, and the Police Managers' Guild.

What we did not audit

We did not audit:

  • all policing activities, such as road traffic policing, homicide investigations, or responses to property crime or drugs;
  • the Police's prevention work, except for adult sexual assault prevention work;
  • the competence or performance of individual police staff; or
  • how the wider justice system deals with sexual assault allegations and prosecutions.

Structure of this report

In Part 2, we give our view on the Police's response to the Commission's recommendations.

In the following four Parts, we discuss our detailed findings on our four themes:

  • Part 3 – Investigating allegations of adult sexual assault.
  • Part 4 – Public complaints about the Police.
  • Part 5 – Performance management, values, behaviour, and discipline.
  • Part 6 – Diversity, inclusiveness, and organisational health.

In Part 7, we discuss the Police's plans to maintain the progress of the last 10 years and improve results further.

1: The State Services Commission was also given a monitoring role for some of the recommendations in the Commission'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).

2: See our earlier monitoring reports at