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Harawira: Police Complaints Authority

Harawira: Police Complaints Authority

Minister of Justice: Abortion Supervisory Committee, Electoral Commission; Human Rights Commission, Law Commission, Legal Services Agency, Police Complaints Authority, Privacy Commissioner

Performance and Current operations of Crown entities, public organizations and state enterprises

Hone Harawira, MP for Te Tai Tokerau

Tuesday 15 April 2008

Tena koe. Kia ora tatou katoa.


Being the first Maori woman appointed Justice of the High Court, and the first Maori woman appointed as a Queen’s Counsel was a huge honour for Justice Lowell Goddard, and a credit to her distinguished legal career, but taking over the Police Complaints Authority last year was always going to be a whole new ball game.

In stepping up to that task, Justice Goddard said that two of her main goals were to ensure the integrity of the New Zealand Police, and restore public confidence in the police.

Hell of a job, given the Bazley report last year damning the culture of police arrogance, the Louise Nicholas case, the recent high-visibility trials of police rape and abuse, and the fact that Maori generally don’t bother complaining to the Police Complaints Authority because they know that cops lie for one another, and always get off.


The Law and Order Committee though, tells us that she’s out there trying to do an extreme makeover of the Authority from being just a “club to jack up excuses for bad cops” to being a more proactive and investigative unit.

The Authority is doing a big clean-up of old files and trying to put in place systems to deal with inefficiencies and unnecessary work.

We’re glad about moves to monitor the “life of a complaint”, particularly given the many complaints we’ve had from Maori that the process of laying a complaint is tough enough, without it being dragged on forever, giving the impression that the police have no intention of actually dealing with the complaint at all.

We’re also encouraged by the Authority wanting to focus on matters of high public interest like serious harm and deaths in custody, corruption, serious neglect, and misconduct. But we’re concerned about suggestions that the Authority refer complaints of ‘bad attitude’ back to the police to handle, when clearly there are a lot complaints of that nature, and people are not likely to be convinced that the police are the best people to deal with it.


It was also interesting to note the fact that the Select Committee met with Justice Goddard just before she met with Tuhoe to discuss their complaints about the police terror raids last year, and yet they barely mentioned it in their report, which is strange considering that apart from the police rape trials, the police terror raids were the most high profile of all complaints in 2007.

It’s worth noting too that although 40 people have already been interviewed, and 10 more are due to come up, the Police Complaints Authority is still keen to talk to anyone else arrested, stopped, photographed, held at gunpoint or has any other complaints concerning police misconduct during those terror raids on Tühoe in 2007, which suggests the matter is far from over.

So although the Select Committee has chosen to ignore this investigation, the Maori Party will be following it closely to ensure that the deplorable, offensive, and totally unacceptable treatment of the people of Tuhoe is not swept under the carpet, the way past police complaints have been.


And following on from the Tuhoe situation, it was also worth noting Justice Goddard’s comments about the success of the Police Ombudsman’s role in Northern Ireland, which is particularly relevant given the hatred of the Catholic population towards what has traditionally been a protestant-run police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

A recent independent survey says that 80% of both Protestants and Catholics felt that complaints against the police would be treated fairly, as well as 85% of those police officers investigated by the Office - quite an amazing statistic given the historic enmity between the different sectors of the Northern Ireland community, and clearly a model worth looking at for us here.


We also note the Law and Order Select Committee’s decision not to mention the new statement guiding the Police Complaints Authority -

whaia te pono, kia puäwai ko te tika

seek out justice and the truth will prevail

but we mention here, and we wish Justice Goddard and her team strength, courage, and fortitude in the pursuit of their philosophy, and in the challenges that lie ahead of them.


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