Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Overseeing the police?

In March 2007, the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct issued its final report into sexual assaults by police. In addition to making numerous recommendations [PDF] about how the police should handle such complaints and the independence of the (then) Police Complaints Authority, it also recommended that:

The Government should invite the Controller and Auditor-General to monitor, for the next 10 years, the New Zealand Police implementation of all the projects and initiatives of the type described in recommendation R58 and also the police implementation of the recommendations of this Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct as approved by Government. The Controller and Auditor-General should report regularly to Parliament on this matter during the ten-year period.
So, how have they been doing with that? I thought I'd ask; this is the Office of the Auditor-General's response:
Under the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry (reported in March 2007), the Auditor-General is to monitor the implementation of the recommendations for 10 years. Given the nature of the recommendations, it was appropriate to provide the Police with sufficient time to establish its response. Accordingly, the Terms of Reference were agreed in 2008, and fieldwork commenced in January 2009. We intend to provide our first report to Parliament against the Terms of Reference in June 2009.
...a mere 26 months after the initial recommendation was made. I'm sure the police feel watched by that.

The terms of reference are here [DOC]. While it will apparently include monitoring of the implementation of specific recommendations, the general focus is very high level and boils down to "do they have a work programme and have they implemented it". Whether that work programme actually implements the recommendations of the Bazeley report seems to be a secondary consideration. Which really isn't good enough. The Bazeley Report identified serious misconduct which has completely undermined public faith in the police. It made specific recommendations on how the police should go about restoring that faith and ending their toxic culture of unaccountability. And the public deserves to know in detail whether those recommendations have been implemented.

Unfortunately, from the evidence we have so far, the answer is "they haven't". For example, while "progress[ing] the Commission of Inquiry recommendations" and "continu[ing] to implement the Code of Conduct" are now part of the police's operating intentions laid out in its Statement of Intent (which ticks the Auditor-General's box), that code of conduct in fact completely ignores Bazeley's recommendations. Exploitative sexual behaviour of the sort engaged in by Clint Rickards is simply not mentioned in the code. Which suggests that despite all that has happened, the police have no intention of changing. And with such a high-level focus, the Auditor-General may let them get away with it.