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Goff To Review Police Complaints Authority

Justice Minister Phil Goff announced today a review of the Police Complaints Authority's structure and the manner in which it conducts its operations.

"The Authority has been in existence now for 12 years. It's time to take stock, to see where it's working well and where improvements can be made," Mr Goff said.

"There's no doubt the PCA has done much during the last 12 years to promote public confidence in police accountability. Currently it investigates approximately 2000 complaints a year and sustains about 15% of cases. It hasn't hesitated to criticise police action on numerous occasions where such criticism has been warranted.

"Following the Waitara shooting, however, some commentators made quite extraordinary allegations about the conduct of previous Police Complaints Authority investigations. I wrote to these people requesting urgently that they substantiate allegations. I have so far received one reply in which the individual accepts that he can offer no concrete example far less evidence of cover-ups.

"In order to maintain a high level of public confidence in the PCA's independence and credibility, the Government has decided that now would be a good time to re-examine publicly the advantages and disadvantages of PCA structure.

"Two key questions we will be asking are:

'Should the Authority have an independent investigative capacity for serious complaints and incidents', and

'To what degree should the function of the Authority be carried out in private and in secrecy'?

"In holding a review, I want to make it clear that this is not an expression of any dissatisfaction whatsoever with the Authority’s track record. Neither should this process in any way be seen as having a bearing on the conduct of the Waitara investigation or the validity of its eventual outcome", Mr Goff concluded.

Hon Justice Sir Rodney Gallen, retired judge of the High Court, will conduct the review and report to the Minister of Justice by 31 October 2000.

[Terms of reference attached.]

ENDS


POLICE COMPLAINTS AUTHORITY REVIEW TERMS OF REFERENCE

Purpose
To review the role of the Police Complaints Authority in investigating and resolving complaints and incidents concerning the Police. The review will not re-examine any particular case investigated by the Authority.

Terms of Reference
To review the performance of the Police Complaints Authority in the twelve years since the passage of the Police Complaints Authority Act 1988 (the Act), and to report to the Minister of Justice (Hon Phil Goff) by 31 October 2000, having particular regard to:

(a) The Authority’s strengths and achievements
(b) Any weaknesses that may exist in the Authority’s structure, legislative mandate or performance
(c) The relationship of the Authority to Ministers, the Police, and the three branches of government generally
(d) Whether any improvements could be made, and if so, what.

In the course of making this assessment and making his recommendations the reviewer will be required to examine and report on the following questions:

(a) Has the Authority achieved its statutory objectives (with particular reference to section 12 of the Act)?
(b) How do the statutory objectives stand up in light of experience?
(c) How is the division of responsibilities for investigating matters allocated between the Commissioner of Police and the Authority?
(d) How efficient has the Authority been in using its resources?
(e) How effective has the Authority been in dealing with complaints which arise from or are related to police policies, procedures or general practices?
(f) How effective has the system of using Police to conduct investigations been? This should include consideration of the police investigators’ ability to access information and familiarity with police structure and practice.
(g) What safeguards against possible bias are built into the investigation process and how effectively have they operated?
(h) Should the Authority have an independent investigative capacity for serious complaints and incidents, and how might that operate, including consideration of potential financial implications?
(i) To what degree should the function of the Authority be carried out in private and in secrecy, and what degree of transparency is advisable in the Authority’s operations?
(j) Should the Authority have the power to initiate a prosecution of a police officer?
(k) What skills, experience, and qualifications would be desirable in the officers and employees of the Authority?
(l) Whether any amendments should be proposed to the role of the Authority?
(m) What improvements, if any, could be made to the structure, processes and position of the Authority within the three branches of the New Zealand Government?
(n) How accessible has the Authority been to the public in reality, and how accessible is it perceived to be by the public?


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