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Need for independent authority highlighted

20 June 2006

NZ First allegations highlight need for independent authority

Allegations by New Zealand First MP Ron Mark that private security guards with histories of serious offending have been hired by police to supervise potentially suicidal people in police cells reinforce a call from the Green Party for an independent Police Complaints Authority, Green Party Justice Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos says.

"These are serious allegations. My colleague Sue Bradford has already pointed out that inadequacies in the mental health sector are forcing police to do the job of mental health crisis teams; now we hear that un-sworn security guards who may themselves have been criminal offenders are supervising particularly vulnerable people.

"These allegations add to a spate of recent criticisms of police behaviour, including the inappropriate use of pepper spray and concerns about the way DNA samples have been obtained. Collectively, these allegations make a compelling case for a completely independent authority to investigate complaints about police.

"I recognise that police mostly do good work with the resources available to them, and I commend them for it. But that does not put them above the law, and the best way to allay public concern is with an independent process which the public can have full confidence in. As long as the complaints authority is internal, concerns will remain.

"It is therefore in the best interests of police and the public if the languishing legislation to set up an independent authority is revived as soon as possible," Nandor says.


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