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Some “watchdog”

Written By: - Date published: 12:20 pm, October 24th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: law and "order", police - Tags: ,

No Right Turn asks some questions about the behaviour of the Independent Police Conduct Authority in deeming the release of information about unlawful behaviour by the Police as “not in the public interest”. There are few safeguards on the police – perhaps the main one should explain its decision in this case. Reproduced with permission for discussion.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority are our watchdog for the police. So how independent are they? A story in the Dominion Post this morning gives the answer: not very. Confronted with a case showing appalling unlawful behaviour by police in persecuting an innocent woman, they refused to release their report as it was “not in the public interest”:

The Dominion Post has a copy of the secret September 2009 IPCA report into a string of complaints laid by former policeman Dave White about the 2005 arrest of Mrs Teokotai, his mother-in-law.The IPCA did not make public its findings because the authority deemed them not of sufficient public interest. It found:

[Superintendent Gary] Smith and [Bay of Plenty police professional standards head Garth] Bryan acted unlawfully by not telling Commissioner Howard Broad and the IPCA about Mr White’s complaint.

Mr Burns and Mr Bryan showed “poor judgment” and failed best practice and police instructions by appointing a Tokoroa senior sergeant with “a clear conflict of interest” to look into the complaint.

Detectives involved in the investigation into Mrs Teokotai acted unprofessionally and two officers appear to have refused to be interviewed about the complaint.

Tokoroa police acted unlawfully by arresting her and lacked justification to incarcerate her and seize her passport and property.

Police breached their legal responsibility to disclose their evidence against her until six months after the case was dismissed.

The initial internal inquiry into complaints against the officers involved “lacked any semblance of independence and professionalism”.

The response to Mr White’s complaint was “totally mismanaged by senior officers”.

I would have thought that releasing this sort of report was very much in the public interest. It would show that the conduct of police was being monitored, thus building faith in the system. Instead, by keeping it secret, the IPCA have simply shown that when it matters, when police behave unlawfully, they will cover it up for them. And then they wonder why the public has no faith in them…

And then there’s the kicker: the officers criticised by the IPCA have been promoted. Smith, who covered up the complaint, got a top job in London as a police liaison. Bryan got a senior job at Police National Headquarters. These are cops who covered up for their mates, who have no place in our police force. The fact that they are still wearing the uniform speaks volumes about the police’s tolerance for the criminals among them and their utter lack of commitment to cleaning house. It shows us they have learned absolutely nothing from the police rape scandal. And it shows us that they are utterly unworthy of our respect.

24 comments on “Some “watchdog” ”

  1. lprent 1

    Apart from the other known facts in the case, which are damning in their own right, what particularly infuriates me about this case is this:-

    Police seized a computer and 20,000 documents from Mrs Teokotai and she spent several hours in a police cell. The case collapsed four months later when police failed to disclose any evidence against her. But they refused to return her property for nearly two years and did so only after she took them to court.

    This is an extra-legal punishment taken by the police. They have no apparent justification for this. Apart from anything else the courts should take notice of this ursurption of their powers and haul the police into court – it is a clear breach of the polices power to hold property when they don’t even have charges pending. It was clearly a punitive measure against someone causing them trouble.

    Obviously we aren’t going to see the facts in the IPCA report until it is released into the public domain. The full details of this report should be because there appear to be no grounds for the decision by the IPCA and the whole thing shows a lackadaisical view of the seriousness of the complaint by the IPCA. It is clearly in the public interest when police exceed their powers with a punative intent and when the body investigating it appear to be complicit in covering it up.

    A lack of response from Mr Smith and Mr Bryan – who was assigned to investigate the complaint – led Mr White to complain to the IPCA. The authority said it took eight months before police began investigating, after the IPCA had received its complaint.

    Detectives involved in the investigation into Mrs Teokotai acted unprofessionally and two officers appear to have refused to be interviewed about the complaint.

    If the IPCA can’t break beyond stonewalling by the police, then what use are they? Perhaps it is time to disband the IPCA and look for a more effective civilian based body that isn’t in thrall to the police. Amongst its powers should be a requirement that police officers are required to talk to its investigators and if they don’t then they should be dismissed from the force.

    • Swampy 1.1

      Unfortunately the police are an elite State agency and we need this State power to be addressed. This seems to go on into the judiciary with Mr Wilson’s resignation, just a convenient escape route for him, he will have no admission of legal wrongdoing and his reputation largely intact.

  2. the sprout 2

    Public confidence in the accountability of NZ Police has been waning ever since the false imprisonment of Arthur Allan Thomas, and nothing has happened since that time to reverse the trend.

    My personal bugbear is the number of people – usually teenagers – who’ve tied in Police pursuits, only of course it wasn’t a pursuit because “Police broke-off the chase moments before the crash”. How many times have we heard that?

    It seems every time Police make an error, it’s taken as yet another reason why they should be armed!
    Go figure 🙁

    • Swampy 2.1

      Pursuit policy is a very different scenario. If you have actually seen the lunacy that goes on on the roads or heard some loser driving their huge noisy car madly round the back streets at 4 am in the morning you would understand that the public at large are 100% behind the police because they have had a gutsful of mindless stupidity from these irresponsible boy racers.

      This should tell you something, it is the IPCA who are handwringing trying to get the police to stop pursuits.

      • lprent 2.1.1

        Surprisingly I’d tend to agree about the public support – I get a few around my place early in the morning and they are bloody annoying when you’re trying to sleep.

        However I think that you missed the point that the sprout was making. He was pointing out the now standard excuse that the police employ.

        Whenever there is a pursuit that results in accident and/or injury to either the people in the car, other motorists, or pedestrians, we are almost always told that the pursuit had been broken off prior to the ensuring tragedy. I’ve heard it so often that I simply don’t believe it. I now treat it as a convenient lie by the police to ensure that some idiot hot-dog in the police force has their arse covered for violating policy. If the police publicly disciplined their own properly it wouldn’t be much of an issue. But you get the impression that they’re only letting a few newbies go before the courts and usually only when they did something off-duty.

        For me to believe it, I’d want to be able to hear the timestamped radio log.

        • mcflock 2.1.1.1

          and it’s a short step from issuing misleading media releases to falsifying evidence to say you ceased pursuit, and from there it’s a short step to dropping a clean knife on the suspect you just beat or shot.

          • Rex Widerstrom 2.1.1.1.1

            In the present climate there’s no need for actual messy physical evidence, mcflock. That could have defence layers asking questions like “so he wiped his prints off after you kicked him in the spleen 27 times, did he?”.

            No, if it’s a man you’ve got in your sights, just wheel out a woman, girl or boy who’ll say “he did bad things to me”. Even better if it’s 30 years ago, so there’s not even a corroborating eyewitness to suggest they saw no evidence of any distress at the time.

            Defence lawyers will tell you that they daren’t question the credibility of the complainant as they’ll just lose the jury completely, so they fiddle round the edges of testimony, trying to trip the witness on small facts (what were they wearing, what time was it) rather than ever suggesting they’re a bare faced liar.

            And if the complainant gets cold feet, they’re told (and I know this happened in at least one case as it’s in a sworn statement) “We’ve got your original statement*. If you change it now we’ll charge you with perjury**. So it’s your choice who goes to jail – you or him”.

            * Which the police wrote themselves
            ** Which is of course bullshit, but the complainant isn’t to know.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1.1.1

              “We’ve got your original statement*.

              And the “original statement” fails to be handwritten and signed by you. I’ve had that happen to me.

          • g says 2.1.1.1.2

            or dropping a couple of rifle cartridges in the garden bed that is about to be searched, or sleeping with the complainants mother while investigaing a huge child sex abuse ring

          • jcuknz 2.1.1.1.3

            I quite believe that the police frequently ‘break off pursuit’ seconds prior to the crash … however the crux of the matter is “How does the pursued know that and hopefully moderate their behavior”.
            So as I see it it is a pointless excuse by the police to hoodwink the public because it is meaningless for the reason above.

            Further to my comment yesterday .. I now see that the reduction of the tolerance from 10 to 4 k’s above posted limits has cost seven lives this weekend .. so much for common sense on the part of the police management when it is well known that reducing speed limits increases rather than decreases the likelihood of accidents.
            I’d point out to Carol that the difference in result from crashing at 110k and at 104k is minimal …the police mantra is highly suspect in my mind after hearing from the British Chief Constable.

            • Carol 2.1.1.1.3.1

              Actually research shows that the severity of crashes increases exponentially as speeds increase: ie, a small increase in speed, especially after about 96kms per hour, result in much higher increases in crash severity:

              http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/speed/speed.htm

              The relationship between vehicle speed and crash severity is unequivocal and based on the laws of physics. The kinetic energy of a moving vehicle is a function of its mass and velocity squared. Kinetic energy is dissipated in a collision by friction, heat, and the deformation of mass. Generally, the more kinetic energy to be dissipated in a collision, the greater the potential for injury to vehicle occupants. Because kinetic energy is determined by the square of the vehicle’s speed, rather than by speed alone, the probability of injury, and the severity of injuries that occur in a crash, increase exponentially with vehicle speed. For example, a 30-percent increase in speed (e.g., from 50 to 65 mi/h [80 to 105 km/h]) results in a 69-percent increase in the kinetic energy of a vehicle.

              The relationship between travel speed and the severity of injuries sustained in a crash was examined by Solomon (1964), who reported an increase in crash severity with increasing vehicle speeds on rural roads. From an analysis of 10,000 crashes, Solomon concluded that crash severity increased rapidly at speeds in excess of 60 mi/h (96 km/h), and the probability of fatal injuries increased sharply above 70 mi/h (112 km/h).

              The evidence about higher speeds causing more crashes is less clear. It depends on the roads, road conditions, maneuvres being carried out, average speed of the rest of the traffic etc.

              • jcuknz

                Carol you seem preoccupied with the result of crashes whereas I am merely talking about the likelihood of them .. and the fear factor which transport advertising is based on seems to have got to you. I’m highlighting the dishonest mis information practiced by the department with regard to chases and speed. I don’t really blame the department with regard to chases because my sympathy is with them versus the ‘lets hang somebody’ attitude some vocal people have on this subject. Parents who have not exercised sufficient control and influence over their offspring and want to blame somebody other than themselves for the tragedy of a lost life so young.

                • Carol

                  Nope. Not preoccupied, just responding to a common misconception amongst the pro-speedsters lobby, that lower speed limits are about preventing crashes.

                  Good driving skills & road code knowledge, and good roads help prevent crashes – plus lessening the influence of things that affect concentration & responses eg alchohol. Lower speeds are to lessen the destructive impact of crashes, as some will always happen. And that’s shown by science.

                  I don’t approve of the police approach to chases – and apart from all the reasons people have given, it seems to me the police help escalating the speeds while participating in chases.

                  As for the irrepressible, serial speedsters: well, these days I prefer public transport & walking if possible. And am contemplating getting a bike to use some safe cycleways. I think there’s a lot of drivers with selfish anti-social attitudes. Cars are over-rated.

                  The police, media and some of the public seem to have contradictory, maybe hypocritical attitudes to speedsters. It’s evident in the name “boy racer”. There’s a romanticisation of the reckless freedom of youth in that. And I suspect that some police officers enjoy the thrill of a car chase too.

    • Vicky32 2.2

      I was in my teens with the Arthur Allan Thomas thing was happening, but already had my own personal reasons for lacking confidence in the police. Years later, I wept at the difficulty of getting them to take domestic abuse seriously, my own in the 70s, and that of others in the 80s. There are a handful of NZ police who I praise, those who were so helpful and kind when involved in the death of my brother in 2004 – but as for the rest, a plague on them, just another gang…
      Deb

      • the sprout 2.2.1

        i fully agree there are some good and some very good ones, but their reputations are besmirched by the lack of accountability for all the bad ones

        • KJT 2.2.1.1

          I was in court supporting a teenager charged with driving offenses not long ago.
          It took weeks, several letters and phone calls to get copy of the police evidence which he is supposed to have as of right. The police grossly exaggerated the gravity of the offense in court instead of a fair statement of facts.

          The attitude of the duty solicitor was also unprofessional. Which was if you wanted to mount any sort of defense it would not happen unless a lawyer was engaged and paid privately.

          This was a 16 year old child.

          I was not very surprised about the lawyer maintaining their gravy train. I was very disappointed in the police.

          I have heard a lot of stories from teenagers since about arrogance, lack of accountability and what I would call unjustified harassment of the powerless.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    More reason for government documents to released automatically unless there’s a damn good reason not to.

    • believe me Draco, once they go ahead with their merger of Archives NZ into the DIA, the documents won’t exist long enough for them to ever get released.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.1.1

        Yeah, that’s why I’ve been calling it the Ministry of Truth. I hope the next government reverses the changes again and implements some truly open government reforms. We know NACT won’t as they’re all about hiding things from the populace.

  4. Thing is, it’s not just the NZ police, it’s the police, period. In WA we’ve just had a middle aged woman who was stopped for driving on a suspended licence and had both her arms deliberately twisted by the arresting officer told her complaint “isn’t serious enough” to warrant investigation by the Corruption and Crime Commission. Which is probably fair comment, because the CCC is flooded with complaints.

    It does have time, though, to go after the Labor Shadow Attorney General for the offence of revealing the name of an undercover officer linked to the wrongful prosecution and imprisonment of a man for 12 years.

    Meanwhile, very quietly buried on the back pages, is news that we may be getting privately funded cops. No chance of divided loyalties there, eh lads?

    The “Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Michelle Fyfe” quoted in that story is, incidentally, the one who set up a speed camera on a seven lane stretch of freeway that has a ludicrous 80km/h speed limit, caught 80% of drivers exceeding it (what a surprise!) and then went on our compliant media to tell us she “expected better”.

    The obvious response – that this is a democracy and that that’s a pretty clear majority who don’t agree with the limit – was relegated to one letter to the editor.

    All of which is, I suppose, a way of saying we get the policing we deserve the same way we get the government we deserve. Till we stand up and say enough, through passive resistance (like everyone fined on that stretch of freeway refusing to pay) we won’t rein in these fascists, we’ll only embolden them.

    • Vicky32 4.1

      “is news that we may be getting privately funded cops. No chance of divided loyalties there, eh lads?”
      Dear Heaven, the mind boggles!
      Deb

    • jcuknz 4.2

      Of course if people didn’t speed or go burglarizing then there would be no problem … it is the whole business of people wanting a responsible society but not willing to act as responsible members of it. Part of that responsibly to society is the provision of suitable places for drivers who want to speed and other driving practices, safe in a controlled place but dangerous on the roads, but oh no the answer is simply leave it to the police to crack down on them .. turning high spirited youngsters into criminals ….been there and seen it .. though fortunately for some reason, probably upbringing, I missed the net.

  5. Treetop 5

    Is the IPCA assisting the police to breed corruption?
    Were David Edward Trappitt’s policing standards followed, including best practise?
    Is the IPCA bound by the 2008 Police Act?

    I do however believe that when a third uninvolved innocent party is named, that this should be with held, because the complainant’s intention would be to not cause harm to a third innocent party. The NZ public know how the NZ police snoop into police files when there is no reason for them to have accessed information.

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