Police publish summary of 10 years of monitoring conduct

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New Zealand Police have published a final report summarising how the Police responded to recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Police Conduct established in 2004.

The Commission of Inquiry was launched to examine the way Police dealt with allegations of sexual assault by police officers and their associates. It was led by Dame Margaret Bazley. The Commission's report was publicly released in 2007. It outlined 47 recommendations for the Police and recommended 10 years of monitoring.

The report, 'A decade of change' 2007-2017 describes how police have addressed those 47 recommendations, including work to:

  • improve the Adult Sexual Assault investigation process
  • improve public knowledge and understanding of how make complaints against the Police
  • change organisational culture and behaviour in terms of ethics
  • increase the number of women and people from ethnic minority groups in the Police and ensure a safe work environment
  • consolidate and improve consistency and standardisation of policies

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said

A far-reaching programme was launched that touched almost every aspect of policing – from policy and training through to performance management and leadership; as well as practice changes that would better serve victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault who turn to Police today can expect to deal with staff who uphold our values of empathy, professionalism, and respect. The changes we have made as an organization are enduring.

The Police Commissioner also said "The conclusion of the mandated COI monitoring period does not represent a finishing line" and "We must continue to be vigilant and make ongoing advances in all the focal areas outlined in this document."

Victim Advocate Louise Nicholas said there has been "amazing change" but the work needed to continue. She also said one of the biggest changes was how police worked with victims: "It was really, really important that they started to understand that people don't make up this type of thing. There's a reason they have come to you, they have been harmed. And, they need the assurance from the police that there will be a full and thorough investigation."

National Rape Crisis spokeswoman Andrea Black agreed there have been significant changes, but there is still work to be done: "It is only 10 years [since the release of the 2007 inquiry] and cultural changes take generations." Listen to the interview with Andrea Black.

During the 10-year monitoring period, the State Service Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) have overseen Police progress on the recommendations. A final OAG performance audit of Police efforts is expected later this year.

Background

The Commission of Inquiry was launched in 2004 after victim advocate Louise Nicholas accused high-ranking police officers of raping her in the 1980s. The 2007 Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct Te Kōmihana Tirotiro Whanonga Pirihimana identified a range of systemic issues and behaviour patterns within Police. There were 60 recommendations in total: 47 for Police, 12 for the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), and one for the Government.

Update

Following the publication of the report, media outlet Stuff spoke to several women as part of an investigation into the way police handle sexual assault and rape cases. Stuff said the women came forward after the publication of the report and reported:

“Some police officers are telling sexual assault victims that if their attacker claims it was consensual, charges are unlikely to be laid. Several women spoken to by Stuff as part of an investigation into the way police handle sexual assault and rape cases say they were told in the early stages of the investigation that a denial by the accused was likely to prove fatal to a prosecution.”

This followed an earlier Stuff article detailing three women's experiences of going to Police after sexual assaults.

More information

Previous reports and independent expert reviews of police progress

Also see the previous NZFVC stories:

'Roast Busters': IPCA report criticises Police, responses to the report, March 2015

OAG releases fourth monitoring report on Police conduct, March 2015

Police release fifth phase review of Commission of Inquiry into police conduct, December 2013

'Mixed but relatively poor' police progress on improving responses to adult sexual assault, October 2012

Selected media

Police are telling rape victims their hands are tied if the accused denies it, Stuff, 30.04.2017

Rape victims say their complaints still aren't being taken seriously, Stuff, 23.04.2017

Lawyers must stop 'peddling myths' in rape trials, Stuff, 07.04.2017

Police step up handling of sex assaults, Newshub, 03.04.2017

Sexual assault victims say they still feel let down by police, Newshub, 03.04.2017