Wednesday, March 30, 2022

The IPCA is a fraud on the NZ public

RNZ examines the Independent Police Conduct Authority this morning as part of its ongoing series about murders by police. The first part of the article discusses the IPCA's exclusion from the OIA, which is probably worth another post. Because the rest of the article, about the IPCA's funding issues and its relationship with police, is pretty interesting reading, and it crosses over with a recent select committee report on Shannon Parker's petition. The agency started out underfunded and toothless - it had no investigators of its own for its first 15 years of existence - and has stayed that way. While it has some independent investigation capacity today, it still relies on police to investigate the vast bulk of complaints for them, rubberstamping and laundering their conclusions, despite the obvious conflict of interest and clear concerns in some cases. Which is pretty dubious when you think about it. The IPCA was established precisely so police wouldn't be investigating themselves. Instead, they still are (because of underfunding and the desire to preserve a cooperative relationship). Which essentially makes this entire agency a fraud on the New Zealand public, a toothless propaganda exercise designed to make us think there is oversight when there is not.

Can it be salvaged? That would require a complete change. A complete change in organisational culture, from a cooperative relationship with police to one of actual oversight, which works for victims of police misconduct rather than for police. It would also require sufficient resources for the task, so they could effectively investigate complaints themselves, plus powers to force police to cooperate and report misbehaviour by their coworkers. And it would require giving them powers not just to prosecute criminal offending by police, but also to intervene in the employment relationship to discipline, sanction, and if required, fire police officers whose misbehaviour does not warrant criminal charges. Because it is clear from the evidence that the police won't do any of that themselves, and are viscerally opposed to any real accountability.

Will the government do that? If they want the public to have any confidence in the police at all, they need to. Otherwise, we have no reason to view them as anything other than a well-armed, government-sanctioned gang.