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Police Review Private Security Guard Calibre Issue

Wellington Police Review Private Security Guard Calibre Issue

New Zealand Police National

21 June 2006

Wellington City Area Police are reviewing internal security procedures to ensure there's no repeat of contracted private security firms sending people with criminal convictions to monitor suicide risk prisoners held in the Wellington Central cells.

Inspector Peter Cowan, Wellington City Area Commander, said the issues raised by MP Ron Mark in Parliament yesterday, are being fully investigated.

Inspector Cowan said he's very concerned that a reputable security firm sent two unlicensed male security officers to monitor a high risk female prisoner being held in the Wellington Central cells overnight on Sunday 11 June and Monday 12 June.

"The safety and wellbeing of all people in our care is important to us. We're staggered and disappointed that two people with clearly inappropriate backgrounds were sent to work in a police station environment," Inspector Cowan said.

"It's not acceptable and I'll being taking every step to make sure that it doesn't happen again. I've already advised Specialised Guard Services that we're suspending all business arrangements with them pending the outcome of a full investigation into last week's incident."

Inspector Cowan said it was important to note that police did not hire the two men concerned, but contracted the company to provide services of licensed guards when required.

"The company let us down by sending these two people. Unfortunately

the security firm's actions were compounded when police staff incorrectly assumed that the standard security industry background vetting checks and licensing approvals had already been made.

"It appears that it wasn't until the police night shift - early shift changeover took place that the security officers' suitability to work in a police environment was queried and their employer advised that the two men were no longer allowed to work in the police station."

Inspector Cowan said preliminary inquiries indicate that the guards did not enter the prisoner's cell and monitoring took place from outside the cell. Prisoner activity, and that of people working in the cellblock area, is covered by CCTV and recorded and monitored in the watchhouse senior sergeant's office.

"Our inquiry will look at all aspects of the incident, including the actions of police staff. We'll certainly be making sure this unfortunate event doesn't happen again.

"I've already directed Wellington Police staff that if and when we need the assistance of any security guards in the future that the backgrounds of individuals will be double checked by us before they are used."

Police in the Wellington District have for several years used private security firm staff to monitor high risk prisoners. This frees up police officers to continue to respond to emergency calls instead of having to undertake round the clock monitoring of prisoners at risk of harming themselves.

Wellington Police also employs casual temporary jailers to work in the cellblock during busy periods, particularly when cells are being used to help offset pressure on Department of Corrections facilities. Full background vetting checks and training is provided by police on all these temporary police staff before employment is offered.

ENDS

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