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Issue No. 412 April 2017

COI – a decade of change

“I’m proud of the distance we’ve come,” says Commissioner Mike Bush. “Police is a very different organisation now compared to even 10 years ago.”

‘Police is a very different organisation now compared to even 10 years ago,” says Commissioner Mike Bush.

His comments come on the release of a document highlighting action taken to implement the 47 Police-specific recommendations resulting from the Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Police Conduct.

A decade of change, 2007–2017 groups the 47 recommendations into five themes: Adult Sexual Assault investigations; Complaints against police; Ethics – behaviour, performance management and discipline; A diverse, inclusive and healthy organisation; and Policy, practice and process.

In February 2004, the then Prime Minister announced the establishment of a formal Commission of Inquiry to carry out an arms-length investigation into the way New Zealand Police had dealt with serious allegations of sexual assault by a small number of police officers and their associates.

Led by Dame Margaret Bazley, the COI drilled into many aspects of policing, spanning the quarter-century from 1979 to 2004. The Commission’s report was publicly released on 3 April 2007.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark with Dame Margaret Bazley (right) and then Ministers Mark Burton and Annette King at the release of the COI report in 2007.

Commissioner Bush says the COI provided a catalyst for significant reform. “A comprehensive programme of change was launched that touched almost every aspect of policing – policy, training and investigative techniques through to staff behaviour, performance management and leadership; and the need for practice changes in order to better serve sexual assault victims.

“It’s fair to say it has been a journey for all Police staff – from the Executive, through to those at the front line.

At times it has been challenging, but change of the depth and magnitude required of us was never going to be easy.

Necessary changes are now embedded within Police.

“The decade-long timeframe gave us room to try things to see if they would make a difference.

“Often they did; sometimes they didn’t. Progress was sometimes rapid, other times less so as operational demands - such as responding to the Canterbury earthquakes - and other priorities took precedence. That is the nature of policing.

A decade of change is publicly available on the Police website.

“I’m proud of the distance we’ve come. Police is a very different organisation compared to even 10 years ago, and certainly compared to 1979 – the start point for Dame Margaret’s COI analysis.

“It’s worth noting that around a third of the staff employed in Police these days were not even born in 1979.”

Commissioner Bush reiterates his thanks to Louise Nicholas, whose courage in bringing forward allegations against police officers and their associates provided much of the impetus for the COI.

“To have Louise as Patron of a Police recruit wing in 2015 and her ongoing input and involvement in Adult Sexual Assault investigation training show her true strength of character, and a selfless willingness to work alongside Police to help right the wrongs of the past.”

Commissioner Bush says while much has been achieved, Police must continue to be vigilant and make ongoing advances in key areas - “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”.

Throughout the past decade, Police’s progress on the COI recommendations has been monitored by the State Service Commission and the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG). A final OAG performance audit on Police’s COI work is expected to be conducted later this year.

Keep moving forward: Louise Nicholas writes – next page

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