Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tacit toleration

Yesterday I asked the obvious question: why was former constable Gordon Stanley Meyer's corrupt abuse of women and his uniform allowed to go on for so long? Because the police didn't bother watching him after receiving a complaint in 2007. Even worse, they didn't even bother warning him:

Police Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls told Radio NZ that Meyer was not issued a warning over the 2007 complaint, nor was a monitoring programme put in place. "You would have thought he would have heeded the warning of the inquiry. Obviously he didn't."

Meyer went on to regularly fill in as acting sergeant and to patrol the city alone at night, which was when his offending took place.

When asked why Meyer's supervisors were not informed of the 2007 complaint, a police spokesman said: "Police are bound by the same laws as any other employer. In the absence of sufficient evidence in either the criminal or employment context police had no lawful grounds to take the measures ... outlined."

This is a gross failure of the police's duty of care to the public. Faced with a potential criminal in their midst who was abusing his position to victimise members of the public, they shrugged their shoulders and looked the other way. And then they wonder why no-one trusts them anymore? It's because they tacitly tolerate people like Meyer.

But its not just an isolated case - the problem is systematic. Back in 2007, the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct recommended that police establish an "early warning system" to monitor such employees, and to make their full disciplinary record available to managers and those making appointments, to allow risky employees to be managed. Six years on, they haven't done it. Delving into the Auditor General's 2012 monitoring report, they installed complaint-tracking software back in 2009, but have not yet rolled it out fully. Meanwhile, they have made conscious decisions that complaint information will not be used for appointment processes and performance monitoring, and to not keep formal records of early interventions on personnel files. This seems to be an outright rejection of Bazley's recommendation. The Auditor-General recommended that the system be fully implemented and in use by December 31 2012. It is unclear if the Police have obeyed. Until they do, we are going to see problems like constable Meyer. And public trust will continue to decline as a result.