Friday, March 04, 2022

No accountability means no confidence III

Its a given in New Zealand that when the police break the law, they refuse to prosecute their own. Even when the Independent Police Conduct Authority makes findings amounting to criminal behaviour, the police at best respond with a "confidential employment process", the outcome of which is kept secret. This undermines public confidence in the police, because there cannot be confidence without public accountability. A few years ago, after reading two appalling IPCA reports in quick succession which detailed seriously illegal (and arguably criminal) behaviour by police, I challenged this, lodging an OIA request seeking the outcome of those employment processes to see whether there had in fact been any accountability at all. The police refused, though they did confirm that "all the officers involved in both incidents remain employees of NZ Police".

Now, after an Ombudsman's complaint, they've finally been forced to release a "summary" of the relevant employment outcomes. "Remedial action" was taken against officers in both cases, though there are no details as to the nature of that action. Whether this builds public confidence in the police's handling of crimes by their own is left as an exercise for the reader.

While this seems to be an unsatisfying outcome, it has at least established a precedent that police must provide summaries where they take employment action. Hopefully people will start doing that whenever the IPCA publishes a report.