Part 7: The Police need to keep building on their progress

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

In this Part, we focus on the on the need for the Police to continue building on their mostly successful progress. We discuss:

Awareness of the need for continued improvement

The Police have ended the 10-year period since the Commission's inquiry as a much more professional organisation, underpinned by the Code and a strong set of values.

However, the end of our monitoring period does not mean the end of change and improvement for the Police. To uphold and build on the progress of the last 10 years, the Police need to continue to focus on some aspects of the themes of the Commission's report.

We do not expect that the Police will continue to report separately on those themes or that the Police need to use the Commission's terminology. Our expectation was that, after 10 years, the Police would have merged the spirit and intent of the Commission's recommendations into their everyday work. In our view, the Police have done that successfully.

The Police are aware of the need for a continued focus. The current Commissioner of Police recently commented:

While significant progress has been made, the conclusion of the mandated COI monitoring period does not represent a finishing line. Our work doesn't stop here. We must continue to be vigilant and make ongoing advances in all the focal areas outlined in this document20; because they are the right things to do in a progressive, relevant organisation, and the right things to do for the people who entrust us to serve them. We must continue to demonstrate, measure and prove how we have embedded the desired cultural and practice changes Dame Margaret asked of us.

We consider that the Police have put good foundations in place and have got mostly good results from the changes they have made.

Some remaining challenges

We have drawn attention to where the Police could improve their performance. We comment here on some of these remaining change challenges and the extent of the Police's plans for addressing those challenges.

Becoming a leadership-led organisation

The Police are putting emphasis on becoming a leadership-led organisation, and less of a "command-and-control" one. The Police see that this approach is more closely aligned to what the Police want to achieve.

We saw examples of the leadership-led approach in action. For example, the Police Commissioner runs meetings with the senior leaders of each police district called District Command Assessments.

The Commissioner's approach in these District Command Assessments is to encourage senior district leaders to think about what they are doing, why they are doing it, and whether what they are doing will deliver the right results. The Commissioner also uses the meetings to discuss good practice he has seen elsewhere. We saw in the meetings senior leaders responding well to this style of leadership.

The Police are investing in developing leaders. The Police's Executive Leadership Team expect the leadership-led approach to work at all levels in the Police. We saw more examples of police staff leading effectively both in the Police and in their communities.

The Police are also putting in place a performance framework to develop police staff. The Police High Performance Framework (the performance framework) covers areas such as culture, leadership, and performance management. We saw that some of the performance framework was already in place for some staff, and that the Police had started to change the way that they assessed the performance of managers. The Police are hoping to speed up the roll out of the framework so all police staff will be using it by the end of 2018.

The Police use a phrase that they "police by consent". This means that the ability of the Police to carry out policing successfully relies on:

  • the public supporting the need for a police service; and
  • getting and keeping the public's respect.

In our view, the same principles apply in the organisation. For example, police staff need to see that there is a need for leaders and those leaders need to have the respect of those they lead. If the Police have a leadership-led approach, that leadership needs to be credible.

Several people we spoke to, inside and outside the Police, commented on the need for senior leaders to uphold personally high standards of conduct and to live the Police's values. During our audit, there were a few cases where this did not happen. The Police know that these events can damage the trust and confidence of the public and of police staff.

A small number of our cohort did not fully support the direction the Police have set. The Police have not yet convinced all staff of the need for the Police to change their approach. People we spoke to commented that the rise in middle manager posts was at the cost of the "front line". Others commented that the Police had gone too far on values and ethnicity and that the Police had their lowered standards. We heard several comments about perceived unfairness in the Police's changed approach to promotion.

The Police need to consider these opinions carefully. People's opinions can influence those around them. For example, capable and suitably-qualified people might not apply for promotion if they do not have confidence in the appointment process.

These comments showed us that, although the Police are working hard to improve leadership, it may take some time before that leadership is operating effectively at all levels in the organisation.

Dealing with inconsistency of service

Although the Police have made good progress in many areas, there were still some people who received inconsistent police services.

Some police districts have made deliberate choices about what service levels they will provide. The districts usually make these choices based on knowledge of what communities need and the resources the Police have. The public rates the Police well on being responsive to local community needs. When we talk about inconsistent service, we do not mean these deliberate choices about levels of service.

Attitudes and behaviour caused most of the variations in service. For example, most of the negative comments from victims of adult sexual assault were about some police staff members' attitudes and behaviours.

There are a few police staff who may no longer be a good fit with the organisation. Although these staff members might not behave badly enough for the Police to take disciplinary action, they can still have a negative effect on those around them.

In our view, the Police's new performance framework must help leaders manage these staff members better, either by supporting those staff members to adapt or help them to move on from the Police.

Improving trust and confidence of staff

We have discussed the results of the Police's respect and integrity questions. We highlighted that only about a quarter of all police staff who had witnessed or experienced bullying, harassment, or discrimination were confident that the Police dealt well with those incidents. We expected to see an improved result from the first time the Police measured it in 2010. In 2017, the result was worse than in 2010.

Creating a culture in which staff feel comfortable reporting their colleagues' misbehaviour is an ambitious goal that needs strong leadership at all levels. If staff feel that nothing will change, it is unlikely that they will report poor behaviour.

We saw that the Police's new performance framework will help leaders see how staff live up to the Police's values. The Police have already put this in place for managers. In our view, this is an important step for the Police.

In the following three figures, we report on whether the Police have plans in place to address three other matters we raised in this audit. Those matters concern areas of adult sexual assault investigations, recruitment and retention, and complaints. For each area, we consider whether the Police have plans and measures that will enable them to show improvement or whether we think the Police should consider different action.

Figure 19
Improving the consistency of adult sexual assault investigations

IssueInconsistent resourcing of adult sexual assault investigations was affecting investigation quality and the service to victims
Is there a current plan to address this? No. The Police have good systems in place to audit the quality of investigations, but this does not influence resourcing decisions.
Should the Police consider different action? Yes. For example, national benchmarks on timeliness and quality of investigations would help set expectations, even if Police District Commanders make the resourcing decisions. This fits with the Police Commissioner's philosophy of telling police staff what is expected of them, but leaving how to achieve this up to them.
Can the Police tell whether they are making a difference? The Police can tell if they are making a difference to quality through their audit process. However, the performance report to the Executive Leadership Team does not include any information on adult sexual assault. We suggest that including the two measures of timeliness and quality would improve oversight of this important area of policing.

Figure 20
Recruitment and retention of women and minority groups

IssueThe Police are not yet representative of the communities they serve
Is there a current plan to address this? Yes. The Police will continue to invest in attracting and supporting women and people from minority groups. Flexible employment options should support part-time staff to keep and progress in their careers. The Police's work on values is making a difference on respect for diversity in the Police. The Police's approach to promotion is making a difference to the gender balance.
Should the Police consider different action? No, but the Police need to give better effect to flexible working arrangements.
Can the Police tell whether they are making a difference? Yes. The Police have set targets for recruitment. The Executive Leadership Team get reports on recruitment and retention. The workplace survey is a valuable source of information on the value of diversity in the Police. The Police have committed to carrying on with a version of the survey in future.

Figure 21
Improving complaints management

IssueThe Police are not meeting their own standards for the time to resolve complaints. We had some concerns about the resilience of the Police's data analysis, and we consider complaints reporting to the Executive Leadership Team could be more sophisticated
Is there a current plan to address this? Partly. The Police are improving the time it takes to resolve complaints and the work under way with the IPCA on alternative resolution should help the Police to resolve less complicated complaints more quickly. Our concerns on resilience were about the dependence on just one person with the experience to use the system, and we did not see any plans to change this. We had a similar concern about the early intervention system, which also relied heavily on one person.
Should the Police consider different action? Yes. We consider that adding thresholds to the complaints data reporting would more clearly draw the Executive Leadership Team's attention to unexpected variations.
Can the Police tell whether they are making a difference? Partly. The Executive Leadership Team do review data on complaints, but the performance report would be enhanced by including timeliness measures and reporting only on complaints outside of the Police's expectations. The Police have also closely linked complaints with increasing public trust and confidence, and have set targets in the Police's four-year plan.

Our final comments on change in the Police

Achieving the significant changes we describe in this report in such a large and complex organisation has been a long and challenging process for the Police and their staff.

The Police need to build on this largely successful beginning. The Police recognise that they will need to continually improve, to maintain the important foundations they have put in place, make progress with the remaining challenges we have outlined in this Part, and support the ongoing improvement expected of all public entities.

As the Commissioner of Police has said, the Police's work in responding to the Commission is only "the end of the beginning".

We will continue to watch the Police's improvement work and organisational health. We will report, if and when needed, on issues of importance to the public's continuing trust and confidence in the Police.

20: A Decade of Change, New Zealand Police –