The New Zealand Police
: Ngā Pirihimana o Aotearoa
is the national police
service of New Zealand
, responsible for enforcing criminal law
, enhancing public safety, and maintaining order
. With about 12,000 personnel it is the largest law enforcement agency in New Zealand and, with few exceptions, has primary jurisdiction over the majority of New Zealand criminal law. The New Zealand Police also has responsibility for traffic and commercial vehicle enforcement as well as other key responsibilities including protection of dignitaries, firearms licensing and matters of national security.
Policing in New Zealand was introduced in 1840, modelled on similar constabularies
that existed in Britain at that time. The constabulary was initially part police and part militia
. By the end of the 19th century policing by consent
was the goal. The New Zealand Police has generally enjoyed a reputation for mild policing, but there have been cases when the use of force was criticised, such as during the 1981 Springbok tour
The current Minister of Police is Poto Williams
. While the New Zealand Police is a government department with a minister
responsible for it, the commissioner
and sworn members swear allegiance directly to the Sovereign
and, by convention, have constabulary independence from the government of the day. The New Zealand Police is perceived to have a minimal level of institutional corruption
Origins and history
Policing in New Zealand started in 1840 with the arrival of six constables accompanying Lt. Governor Hobson
's official landing party to form the colony of New Zealand. Early policing arrangements were along similar lines to the UK and British colonial police forces, in particular the Royal Irish Constabulary
and the New South Wales Police Force
. Many of its first officers had seen prior service in either Ireland or Australia. The early force was initially part police and part militia
At the outset, official establishment of sworn constables holding common law powers to arrest people was achieved by magistrates being given the power to swear them in via the Magistrates Ordinance of 1842. By 1846, the emerging organisation of a police force was recognised with the passage of the Armed Constabulary Ordinance
. New Zealand's early police force continued to grow with the colony and was further enhanced with additional structure and rules with the passage of the first Police Act, the New Zealand Armed Constabulary Act
of 1867. The Armed Constabulary took part in military actions against Māori opponents Riwha Titokowaru
in Taranaki and Te Kooti
in the central North Island in the dying stages of the New Zealand Wars
From the police force's beginnings in 1840 through the next forty years, policing arrangements varied around New Zealand. Whilst the nationally organised Armed Constabulary split its efforts between regular law enforcement functions and militia support to the land wars, some provinces desired local police forces of their own. This led to a separate Provincial Police Force Act being passed by the parliament. However, provincial policing models lasted only two decades as economic depression in the 1870s saw some provinces stop paying their police as they ran out of money. Eventually, the government decided a single nationally organised police would be the best and most efficient policing arrangement.
The New Zealand Police Force was established as a single national force under the Police Force Act of 1886. The change in name was significant, and provincial policing arrangements were dis-established and their staff largely absorbed into the newly created New Zealand Police Force. At the same time, the government took the important step to hive off the militia functions of the old Armed Constabulary, and form the genesis of today's New Zealand Defence Force, initially called in 1886 the New Zealand Permanent Militia.
Just a decade later, policing in New Zealand was given a significant overhaul. In 1898 there was a very constructive Royal Commission of Enquiry into New Zealand Police. The Royal Commission, which included the reforming Commissioner Tunbridge who had come from the Metropolitan Police in London, produced a far-reaching report which laid the basis for positive reform of New Zealand Police for the next several decades. A complete review of police legislation in 1908 built significantly off the Royal Commission's work.
A further Police Force Act in 1947 reflected some changes of a growing New Zealand, and a country coming out of World War II
. The most significant change in the structure and arrangement for police came after the departure of Commissioner Compton under a cloud of government and public concern over his management of Police in 1955. The appointment of a caretaker civilian leader of police, especially titled "Controller General" to recognise his non-operational background, opened the windows on the organisation and allowed a period of positive and constructive development to take place.
In 1958, the word "Force" was removed from the name when legislation was significantly revised.
On 1 July 1992, the Traffic Safety Service
of the Ministry of Transport was merged with the police.
Up until that time, the Ministry of Transport and local councils had been responsible for traffic law enforcement. In 2001, the Police re-established a specialist road policing branch known as the Highway Patrol. Today the police are mainly responsible for enforcing traffic law, while local councils can appoint parking wardens, who can enforce traffic rules regarding parking and special vehicle lanes.
In 2010, after some calls to split traffic enforcement again from standard police duties, it was decided that it would remain part of their duties, partly due to the public having shown "enormous support" for it remaining this way.
The Police Act 1958 was extensively reviewed starting in 2006, after a two and a half-year consultative process the Policing Act 2008
came into effect on 1 October 2008.
The process included the world's first use of a wiki
to allow the public to submit or propose amendments. The wiki was open for less than two weeks, but drew international attention.
Women in the New Zealand Police
Women were first admitted to the police in 1941 but were not issued with uniforms.
One of the first intake was Edna Pearce
, who received the badge number S1 when she was finally issued a uniform in 1952.
Pearce made the first arrest by a woman police officer in New Zealand.
Royal New Zealand Police training college
There is a Police National Headquarters that provides policy and planning advice as well as national oversight and management of the organisation. Although headed by a Commissioner
, the New Zealand Police is a decentralised organisation divided into twelve districts.
Each district has a geographical area of responsibility and a central station from which subsidiary and suburban stations are managed. As of March 2019, there are 327 police stations around the country
with nearly 12,000 staff who respond to more than 600,000 emergency 111 calls each year.
The Commissioner is in overall charge of the New Zealand Police. Assisting the Commissioner are two chief officers in the rank of Deputy Commissioner: Deputy Commissioner-Resource Management; and Deputy Commissioner-Operations.
Five chief officers in the rank of Assistant Commissioner and the Director of Intelligence report to the Deputy Commissioner-Operations. The Assistant Commissioner-Investigations/International is responsible for the National Criminal Investigations Group, the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand (OFCANZ), Financial Crime Group, International Services Group and Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police Secretariat. The Investigations and International Group leads the prevention, investigation, disruption and prosecution of serious and transnational crime. It also leads liaison, overseas deployment and capacity building with international policing partners. The Assistant Commissioner-Operations is responsible for Community Policing, Youth, Communications Centres, Operations Group, Prosecutions and Road Policing. The remaining three Assistant Commissioners command geographical policing areas – Upper North, Lower North and South. Each area is divided into three to five districts.
District Commanders hold the rank of Superintendent
, as do sworn National Managers, the road policing manager in the Waitemata District, responsible for the motorway network and traffic alcohol group, and the commandant of the Royal New Zealand Police College
. Area Commanders hold the rank of Inspector
as do Shift Commanders based in each of the three Communications Centres. District Section Commanders are typically Senior Sergeants. The New Zealand Police is a member of Interpol
and has close relationships with the Australian police forces
, at both the state and federal level. Several New Zealand Police representatives are posted overseas in key New Zealand diplomatic missions.
It is acknowledged, by both Police and legislation, that important and valuable roles in the performance of the functions of the Police are played by: public agencies or bodies (for example, local authorities and state sectors), persons who hold certain statutory offices (for example, Maori Wardens), and parts of the private sector, especially the private security industry. It is also acknowledged that it is often appropriate, or even necessary, for Police to perform some of its functions by working in co-operation with citizens, or other agencies or bodies.
The New Zealand Police is organised into twelve districts: nine in the North Island
and three in the South Island
. Each district is subdivided into between two and four areas:
- Northland – based in Whangārei; divided into two areas: Far North and Whangarei-Kaipara.
- Waitematā – based in Henderson; divided into three areas: North, West, and East.
- Auckland City – based in Auckland Central; divided into three areas: West, Central, and East.
- Counties-Manukau – based in Manukau; divided into four areas: West, Central, East, South and Auckland Airport.
- Waikato – based in Hamilton; divided into three areas: Hamilton City, Waikato West, and Waikato East.
- Bay of Plenty – based in Rotorua; divided into four areas: Western Bay of Plenty, Eastern Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, and Taupō.
- Eastern – based in Hastings; divided into two areas: Hawke's Bay and Tairāwhiti.
- Central – based in Palmerston North; divided into three areas: Taranaki, Whanganui, and Manawatū.
- Wellington – based in Wellington; divided into four areas: Wellington City, Kapi-Mana, Hutt Valley, and Wairarapa.
- Tasman – based in Nelson; divided into three areas: Nelson Bays, Marlborough, and West Coast.
- Canterbury – based in Christchurch; divided into three areas: Christchurch Metro, Canterbury Rural and Aoraki.
- Southern – based in Dunedin; divided into three areas: Otago Coastal, Otago Lakes-Central, and Southland.
New Zealand Police operate three communications centres that are responsible for receiving 111 emergency calls, *555 traffic calls and general calls for service and dispatching the relevant response. The centres are:
- Northern Communications Centre, based in Auckland and responsible for the northern half of the North Island, down to Hicks Bay, Desert Road south of Turangi, and Awakino
- Central Communications Centre, based in Wellington and responsible for the southern half of the North Island, from Mokau, Taumarunui, the Desert Road north of Waiouru, and Te Araroa in the north
- Southern Communications Centre, based in the Christchurch Central Police Station, responsible for the South Island
The Police Digital Services Centre, a new digital services and communications centre, opened in Paraparaumu
in November 2018.
Police Dog handler
A police employee becomes a constable
by swearing the oath
under section 22 of the New Zealand Policing Act 2008. Upon doing so the constable receives certain statutory powers and responsibilities, including the power of arrest. While constables make up the majority of the workforce, non-sworn staff and volunteers provide a wide range of support services where a constable's statutory powers are not required. Rank insignia are worn on epaulettes
. Officers of Inspector rank and higher are commissioned by the Governor-General
, but are still promoted from the ranks of non-commissioned officers
. A recently graduated constable is considered a Probationary Constable for up to two years, until he or she has passed ten workplace assessment standards. The completion of the above is known as obtaining permanent appointment. Detective ranks somewhat parallel the street ranks up to Detective Superintendent. Trainee Detectives spend a minimum of six months as a Constable on Trial after completing an intensive Selection and Induction course. During these initial six months they are required to pass four module based exams before progression to Detective Constable. They are then required to continue studying with another six exam based modules as well as a number of workplace assessments. Once the Detective Constable has completed all of this they are then required to sit a pre-requisite exam based on all of the exam based modules they have previously sat. If they are successful in passing this they attend the Royal New Zealand Police College where they complete their training with the Detective Qualification course before receiving the final designation of Detective. All of these requirements are expected to be completed within two to three years.
The rank of Senior Constable is granted to Constables after 14 years of service and the Commissioner of Police is satisfied with their conduct. Senior Constables are well regarded within the New Zealand Police for their extensive policing experience, and are often used to train and mentor other police officers.
Detective and Detective Constable are considered designations and not specific ranks. That is, Detectives do not outrank uniformed constables. Nevertheless, a police officer with a Detective designation will generally assume control of a serious crime scene rather than a uniform staff member regardless of rank.
To promote to the rank of a Sergeant, Constables must have at least 5 years of service, have a good understanding of general Policing and pass the Core Policing Knowledge examination. Once completed, they are then eligible for promotion.
Insignia and uniform
Two officers at a protest
New Zealand police uniforms formerly followed the British model closely but, since the 1970s, a number of changes have been implemented. These include the adoption of a medium blue shade in place of dark blue, the abolition of custodian helmets
and the substitution of synthetic leather jackets for silver buttoned tunics when on ordinary duty. The normal headdress is a peaked cap with blue and white Sillitoe tartan
band and silver badge. Baseball caps and Akubra
wide-brimmed hats are authorised for particular duties or climatic conditions. Stab resistant and high visibility vests are normally worn on duty. The body vests are also marked with Sillitoe tartan markings.
members, when deployed, wear the usual charcoal-coloured clothing used by armed-response and counter-terror units
around the world. In 2008, a survey found strong staff support for the re-introduction of the white custodian helmets worn until 1995, to reinforce the police's professional image.
Police officers communicate with each other via Apple iPhones
. For shorter, fast communication, front-line police officers also use radios.
In 2009 New Zealand Police began moving from using analogue two-way radios, to trialling digital encrypted radios in the Wellington region.
The trial was perceived as having been successful and New Zealand Police planned to roll out digital encrypted radios to all regions. However, this has not progressed as planned and only the main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have digital encryption.
In 2012, the police began using drones also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. By 2013, drones had been used only twice; in one case a drone was used in a criminal investigation and led to charges being laid in court. Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said "organisations using drones needed good privacy policies – or possibly a warrant".
The 18.5-metre police catamaranDeodar III
, based in Auckland
The Deodar III's sister, Lady Elizabeth IV, based in Wellington
Two maritime units are also operated – the launch Deodar III
in Auckland and the launch Lady Elizabeth IV
in Wellington, supported by various smaller vessels.
The Holden Commodore
is the current generic road vehicle of choice for the police. In the past they have used Ford Falcons
and the Nissan Maxima
. The highway patrol mainly uses the Holden Commodore S variant along with the Holden VF Commodore
. The police also use unmarked models of the Holden Cruze and Holden Commodore. Liveries are chequered Battenburg markings
orange-blue (older models – VT, VX and VZ Commodores) or yellow-blue (Newer Models, Captiva
, Commodore VE
, trucks and vans), as well as cars in standard factory colours, commonly referred to as unmarked or undercover.
Since 2008 the orange-blue livery is being phased out, and all marked patrol vehicles were expected to have the yellow-blue livery as well as LED light bars
Both Commodore sedan
bodies are used – normally in V6
The Holden Commodore (VE, VT, VX and VZ) is currently being phased starting 2013 and slowly being replaced with Holden VF Commodores, with ZB Commodores
joining the fleet in 2018.
The Holden Cruze
is currently only used for Youth Aid, both marked and unmarked.
With Holden's announcement it would cease operations in 2021, new pursuit vehicles have been investigated.
A request for proposal was issued in July 2020 and 27 different vehicle models were evaluated. In November 2020, the police announced that the Skoda Superb
would supersede the Holden Commodore, with the first cars being introduced in April 2021.
have fully enclosed utility or station wagon vehicles, which may be liveried or unmarked, with cages in the rear and remotely operated canopy doors to allow the handler to release their dog if away from the vehicle.
The police also use vans and trucks as Team Policing Units, command centers, mobile police stations, and for the Riot Squad and Armed Offenders Squad (AOS).
The AOS also have their own vehicles which is commonly seen as a Nissan X-Trail and the newly introduced Toyota Highlander (all unmarked and equipped with bullbars). They also use the new Holden Acadia with unique markings in the upper/middle North Island.
The police use SUV-type vehicles mainly for use in rural New Zealand but can also be used in urban areas (mainly in airports). The vehicles used are the Holden Captiva, the Colorado
, and its predecessor the Rodeo
The police and Ministry of Transport (see history above) have used a wide range of different cars and motorbikes over the years.
New Zealand Police officers do not routinely carry firearms on their persons; officers only carry OC spray
(pepper spray), batons
. The Diplomatic Protection Squad
, dog section units and airport officers are the only officers who routinely carry firearms.
The majority of New Zealand Police officers are trained in the use of the Glock 17
pistol and Bushmaster XM15 M4A3 Patrolman
AR-15 type, military style semi-automatic rifle
and wear a holster attachment for the pistol to enable carriage of the firearm if necessary.
Since 2012, frontline vehicles have had a locked box in the passenger foot-well containing two loaded and holstered Glock 17s and, in the rear of the vehicle, there are two Bushmaster rifles in a secured case together with ballistic vests
Officers are required to advise their supervisor or communications if a firearm is to be retrieved from their vehicle and carried.
The vehicles are fitted with glass break car alarms.
Each officer in the vehicle carries a set of vehicle keys and a set of safe keys.
The Police Association has stated carrying of handguns is inevitable. In January 2013, a Waikato officer was attacked by at least five men after he deployed his OC spray and Taser. His radio was taken from him and his pistol was misplaced during the attack. The Police Association's request for routine carrying of firearms for all officers after this incident was dismissed by the Police Commissioner.
The current firearm training and issuing policy has been criticised. Not all police officers receive regular firearm training nor do their vehicles contain a secured firearm. In October 2015, unarmed officers at a routine police checkpoint at Te Atatū South who pursued a vehicle that sped off from the checkpoint were shot at from the offender's vehicle.
In December 2015, the Police Association referring to the incident requested that all frontline officers receive firearm training and that their vehicle contain a secured firearm; this was rejected.
In July 2015, the Police Commissioner announced that Tasers would be routinely carried by police officers.
Tasers were first trialled in 2006 and in 2010 were rolled out throughout New Zealand with all frontline vehicles containing a secured Taser in a locked box, providing ready access for officers, if needed, to a Taser model X26 or X2.
In 2012, figures showed that a 'disproportionate number of people' targeted by police Tasers were mental health patients.
Police officers receive regular Police Integrated Tactical Training (PITT) with level of responder training provided varying depending upon an officer's role and responsibilities.
In 2017, a new Responder Model was introduced replacing the former three-tier model consequently the number of officers trained as Level 1 responders with the pistol, rifle and taser increased to 79% which incorporates training in defensive tactics, handcuffs, OC spray and baton.
In 2019, the Level 1 responder live fire training and simunitions
training was increased by 50%.
The New Zealand Police annually release a report of their use of force
including OC spray, Tasers and firearms.
All officers wear the Body Armour System (BAS) introduced in 2019 which is a stab-resistant vest
that has pouches to carry their equipment and which can be fitted with ballistic
hard armour plates.
The BAS replaced the stab resistant body armour (SRBA) introduced in 2006 and the ballistic Hard Armour Plate (HAP) which could be worn over the SRBA.
Notable policing events
Memorial for the Kowhitirangi Incident
Detail of the memorial
Later that day, Constable Best returned with Sergeant William Cooper
, 43, and Constables Frederick Jordan
, 26, and Percy Tulloch
, 35. After a short conversation inside his house, Graham shot and wounded Sergeant Cooper and Constable Best after Sergeant Cooper apparently reached to disarm Graham.
He then fired at Constables Jordan and Tulloch as they ran into the house, killing them both instantly with the one bullet. When the badly wounded Cooper attempted to leave to obtain help, Graham shot him dead on the path in front of the house. Best was shot once more after allegedly attempting to plead with him, and died three days later. Graham also fatally wounded a field instructor for the Canterbury
education board named George Ridley, who had entered Graham's property to assist any wounded along with an armed local, whom Graham threatened and disarmed.
The next day, Graham returned to his house, only to find it occupied by three armed Home Guard
personnel, two of whom he fatally wounded after a firefight.
After widespread searches in the district, two policemen and a local civilian saw Graham carrying his rifle and ammunition belts on 20 October.
He was shot by Constable
James D'Arcy Quirke with a .303
rifle, from a distance of 25 meters,
while crawling through a patch of scrub. He died early the next morning in Westland Hospital
The police investigation into the murders of Harvey and Jeanette Crewe
in 1970 was a turning point in the public's perception of the police. A royal commission subsequently found that the police had planted evidence and framed Arthur Allan Thomas
for the murder. Writer Keith Hunter believes this introduced "a cynicism (in attitudes towards the police) that infects us today."
During the 1981 Springbok tour
, the police formed three riot squads known as Red Squad,Blue Squad
and White Squad
to control anti-apartheid
protesters who laid siege to rugby union
fields where the touring team was playing.
Police were described as being heavy-handed with their batons as they tried to 'subdue' protesters opposed to the Springbok tour.
The tour had a significant effect on public perceptions of the police who since this time "have never been viewed with the same general benign approval".
In July 1985, the New Zealand Police arrested two French Action Service
operatives after the Rainbow Warrior
was bombed and sunk in Auckland
harbour. The rapid arrest was attributed to the high level of public support for the investigation.
In October 2007 at least 17 people were arrested in a series of raids
under the Suppression of Terrorism Act
and the Arms Act 1983. The raids targeted a range of political activists allegedly involved in illegal firearms activity.
The case dragged on for nearly four years and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Much of the surveillance evidence was found to have been gained illegally and charges against all but four defendants were dropped.
The remaining four were charged with firearms offences, found guilty and sentenced to terms of imprisonment and home detention.
On 20 January 2012, the police flew in by helicopter and arrested Kim Dotcom
and three others in Coatesville
, Auckland, in an armed raid on Dotcom's house following United States cybercrime
indictments against him for on-line piracy via his internet file sharing company, Megaupload
. Assets worth $17 million were seized including eighteen luxury cars, giant screen TVs and works of art. According to Dotcom, about 80 police officers were involved in the operation;
the New Zealand police claimed it was between 20 and 30.
The incident became controversial when a district court judge ruled that the warrants issued for the property seizures were invalid and it turned out the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) had broken the law when asked by police to spy on Dotcom.
Police and civilian deaths
A member of the New Zealand Police, Sergeant Stewart Graeme Guthrie
, was the last New Zealand civilian recipient of the George Cross
, which is awarded for conspicuous gallantry. He fired a warning shot near a gunman at Aramoana
on 13 November 1990, but was killed by a return shot from the gunman, who also killed twelve others.
As of May 2009, 29 police officers have been killed by criminal acts, and about 17 by accident, while in the performance of their official duties.
The most recent policeman to die was Constable Matthew Dennis Hunt, who was shot and killed
during a routine traffic stop.
Civilian deaths involving police
In June 2012 the Independent Police Conduct Authority
(IPCA) released a comprehensive report on deaths in police custody.
There were 27 deaths in the last ten years – ten of which were suicides. Seven deaths occurred when police were overly vigorous in the use of restraint. Another seven were "caused by the detainee's medical condition" which got dramatically worse in police custody, and three deaths were drug related when police failed to ascertain the detainees were on drugs. Of the 27 deaths, the IPCA said only four "involved serious neglect of duty or breaches of policy by police".
On top of deaths in custody, police have shot and killed seven people in the last ten years. One was an innocent bystander, and another two were not carrying firearms but were carrying other weapons.
The police were exonerated in all seven cases.
Numerous people have also died in collisions during or shortly after police car chases. In the five years after December 2003, 24 people died and 91 received serious injuries in police pursuits.
Over this period, the IPCA made numerous recommendations to change police protocols, but the death rate continued to climb. In 2010, 18 drivers fleeing police were killed.
Fourteen of the deaths were triggered by pursuits over minor offences rather than serious crimes.
That year police conducted the fourth review of pursuit policy in six years and ignored key recommendations of the Independent Police Conduct Authority making only minor changes to the policy.
Over the next 12 months, 15 drivers died in the course of police pursuits.
14% of pursuits result in a crash either by the police or the offender but police guidelines do not provide a predetermined speed at which officers should pull out of a pursuit. The IPCA has now recommended that pursuit policy would should require officers to "state a reason for beginning a pursuit," and recommended compulsory alcohol and drug testing of police officers involved in fatal incidents.
Counter-terrorism and military assistance
Since 2005 the NZ Police's main counterterrorism and threat assessment group is the National Security Investigations Team
, previously known as the Special Investigation Group.
The NSIT is composed of four teams in regional centres, with a remit that covers early intervention in cases of extremism, soliciting informants, and building relationships with communities. Public information on the NSIT was released in relation to criticism of its handling of right wing terrorism
in the lead up to the Christchurch terror attack.
The NZ Police are accountable for the operational response to threats to national security, including terrorism
. If an incident escalates to a level where their internal resources are unable to adequately deal with the issue (for example, a major arms encounter or a significant terrorist threat), the Police Incident Controller may call on extra assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force
and in particular NZ's Special Forces, the military focused New Zealand Special Air Service
and terrorism focused Commando Squadron (D Squadron). Control of the incident remains with police throughout. As of 2009, the two military counter terrorist units have never been deployed in a domestic law-enforcement operation. Military resources such as Light Armoured Vehicles have been used and requested before, such as during the Napier shootings
, and Royal New Zealand Air Force
helicopters from No. 3 Squadron
are often used to assist in search and rescue and cannabis eradication operations.
In 1964, the Armed Offenders Squad
(AOS) was created to provide a specialist armed response unit, similar to the Metropolitan Police Service
in the United Kingdom. In addition to the AOS, the New Zealand Police maintain a full-time counter-terrorist unit, the Special Tactics Group
(STG). Similar to the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team
, the STG train in dynamic entry
and other tactics vital in high-risk situations. The STG train with the SAS
and are the last line of law enforcement response available before a police Incident Controller calls in support from the Defence Force.
Crime statistics are documented in the police annual report.
The police also publish bi-yearly statistical summaries of crime for both New Zealand as a whole and each police district. In early 2005, crime statistics
for both recorded crime and recorded apprehensions for the last 10 years were published by Statistics New Zealand
. These statistics provide offence statistics related to individual sections of legislation and appear to be the most detailed national crime statistics available today.
During the early years of the present century several controversies put the Police under close scrutiny. Some have been investigated by the Independent Police Conduct Authority
; others have received significant publicity.
The Integrated National Crime Information System (INCIS) was a computer software package developed by IBM in the early 1990s to provide improved information, investigation and analysis capabilities to the police. Deputy Police Commissioner, Barry Matthews
, was responsible for its implementation and acknowledged that police requested 'hundreds and hundreds of changes' to the system as the programme was being developed.
It never worked as required and ended up costing $130 million before it was finally abandoned in 2000.
The wasted resources and on-going problems surrounding the failure of the project were a huge distraction for the police. When it was about to be scrapped, Police Association president Greg O'Connor
said "The reality of it is that the sooner ... the huge distraction that is Incis is gone, the better."
Funding wasted on INCIS subsequently led to budget cuts in other areas so that infrastructure such as cars and communications centres were poorly resourced.
Use of facial recognition technology
In 2021, police were accused of racially profiling Māori
and young people by taking photos of any youth apprehended during the course of patrols or considered "suspicious" on a mobile app called "OnDuty" connected to the National Intelligence Application
Police claim the photos were a necessary part of combatting crime through more effective intelligence sharing.
In 2004 and 2005, the police were criticised over several incidents in which callers to the Police Communications Centres, particularly those using the 111 emergency telephone number
, received inadequate responses. In October 2004, the Commissioner of Police ordered an Independent Review into the Communications Centres under sustained political scrutiny after the Iraena Asher
incident received a lot of publicity and a whistle-blowing
employee resigned. On 11 May 2005, the Review Panel released its report which criticised the service for systemic failures and inadequate management. The report expressed ongoing concerns for public safety.
Police acted on the recommendations of the review with a number of initiatives, including increasing communications centre staff numbers
and then initiating a demonstration project for a single non-emergency number
centre, to reduce the load on the 111 service. The single non-emergency number 105 was launched on 10 May 2019.
Historical sexual misconduct by police
In 2004, a number of historical sexual misconduct allegations dating from the 1980s were made against both serving and former police officers. In March 2006 assistant police commissioner Clinton Rickards
and former police officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were charged with raping and sexually abusing Louise Nicholas
during the 1980s. The defendants claimed all sex was consensual and were found not guilty on 31 March 2006.
In February 2007 the same three men faced historical charges of kidnapping and indecent assault for the pack rape of a 16-year-old girl with a whisky bottle that took place in the early 1980s, and again they were acquitted.
Throughout both trials, the jury were unaware that Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum had been convicted of a previous pack rape in 2005 and were already serving prison sentences for this crime.
Rickards was forced to resign from the police but was paid $300,000 as part of his termination package.
Complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour by police officers led to a three-year inquiry conducted by Dame Margaret Bazley
. Her highly critical report was released in 2007.
Poor prosecution of sexual abuse cases
In 2008 there was a public scandal regarding the failure of police to investigate a backlog of sexual abuse cases in the Wairarapa.
The then head of the Masterton Criminal Investigation Bureau, Detective Senior Sergeant Mark McHattie, received an unspecified disciplinary "outcome" and has since been promoted to head of the Auckland CIB's serious crime unit.
Spying on community, union and activist groups
In 2008, the police's Special Investigation Group
came under considerable media scrutiny after it was revealed Chrischurch man Rob Gilchrist had been hired by officers to spy on individuals and organisations including Greenpeace
, Iraq war protestors, student associations, unions, animal rights and climate change campaigners.
Detention of youth in police cells
The Independent Police Conduct Authority launched a wider investigation into the treatment of young people in police cells and in October 2012 issued a report which found that the number of young people being held has more than doubled since 2009.
It said that "youths in crisis are being locked up in police cells and denied their human rights." Practices that "are, or risk being, inconsistent with accepted human rights" include: being held in solitary confinement; having cell lights on 24 hours a day; family members being prevented access; and not being allowed to see the doctor when they have medical or mental health problems.
The IPCA made 24 recommendations into how police can improve the detention and treatment of young people in custody.
In 2019, it was reported that there had been claims of bullying within New Zealand Police.
Taranaki death in custody, June 2020
On 3 June 2020, three police officers in the town Hāwera
in the Taranaki
region were charged with manslaughter in relation to the death of a 55 year old man who died in police custody in early June 2019. The man's death had been investigated by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
Armed response teams
On 9 June 2020, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster
announced that the police would be scrapping their armed response teams after public feedback and consultation with the Māori
communities. Public discussion around the armed response teams was influenced by concerns about police-community relations in light of the murder of George Floyd
, which sparked protests around the world including New Zealand
On 27 August 2020, the Independent Police Conduct Authority criticised the Police's handling of the detention of Alo Ngata, who died in police custody in July 2018 after he had been incorrectly fitted with a spit hood
. Ngata had been arrested for assaulting an elderly pensioner named Mike Reilly in Auckland's Freemans Bay
and had violently resisted arrest. While the IPCA considered the Police's use of force to be reasonable, they found that the police had failed to assess his well-being while in custody.
Both Ngata and Reilly's family have asked the police to release footage from the Police helicopter showing Ngata assaulting Reilly.
- ^ The first British constables arrived in 1840, and police were further empowered by a series of ordinances. A "New Zealand Armed Constabulary" was established in 1867. It was renamed the "New Zealand Police Force" in 1886, and shortened to the current name in 1958.
- ^ The Māori name literally translates to "The Police Officers of New Zealand".
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Last edited on 11 September 2021, at 10:42
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