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Opening statement from Howard Broad, Commissioner

Opening statement from Howard Broad, Commissioner of Police

Tuesday 3 April 2007 at 1pm

Opening statement by Commissioner of Police Howard Broad at a media conference, Police National Headquarters, 180 Molesworth Street, Wellington

Let me state at the outset: I accept the Commission of Inquiry's findings in full.

I have made a commitment to the Minister of Police that I will implement all of the 48 recommendations relating directly to Police and will work closely with those implementing the remaining 12 recommendations, relating to the Police Complaints Authority.

My role as Commissioner is to provide the leadership needed to cement this organisation's reputation for performance and integrity. That's a responsibility I'm proud to accept and determined to meet.

Since taking up my appointment, I've looked into the four corners of this organisation. I've seen examples of the most remarkable courage, commitment and dedication, insight, innovation and downright decency that you would ever wish to see.

Members of the public make a point of passing on to me their praise for the work of police officers.

It's that background of high performance and integrity from most of our staff that makes this report such painful reading.

The report illuminates the actions of a very few officers who have behaved disgracefully. Their actions were wrong and contrary to their oath of office.

I find it difficult to express in words my feelings about these people for they have caused immeasurable damage to a number of New Zealanders that they had sworn to protect.

I unreservedly and unequivocally apologise to the women who were caught up in the actions of those few officers. I acknowledge the hurt and harm that's been done and the grief that's been caused to you, your families and supporters.

To the women of New Zealand I say: I have been disgusted and sickened, as you will be, by the behaviour put before the Commission of Inquiry in many of the files that covered some 25 years of our recent history.

To all New Zealanders, I am truly sorry that a very few of our number have undermined the high expectations you rightly have of your police.

On behalf of the Police leadership, present and past, can I say this to the overwhelming number of good people serving or who have served in the Police: You and your families do us great credit. I have already asked each of you to stand firm with me in the face of this character test.

I now ask all the serving members to join with me to make the changes necessary to prevent this sort of behaviour ever happening again.

This is a comprehensive report, 60 recommendations in all, and it will take a number of years to complete the attitudinal, behavioural and procedural shift that I seek.

The work has already started as you will see from the spreadsheet of actions, which we will publicly update every quarter until the job is done.

I agree with Dame Margaret that Police need a modern system for disciplinary action based on a code of conduct similar to general employment practice.

The system must have the confidence of both the public and police staff.

Both citizens and officers must be confident they can report attitudinal and behavioural problems at an early stage. They also need to be sure the Police will respond professionally and responsibly.

We are moving quickly on this. A draft code has been fully consulted and its introduction ahead of changes to the Police Act has been agreed to by the Police Service organisations. Government has agreed to work with me to pass with urgency regulations giving teeth to the code.

These moves will be followed up by reform of the 1958 Police Act later this year. The consultation on this Bill has seen very welcome cross party support for the process and I ask all members of the House to do all they can to pass this legislation as soon as possible.

At the heart of the issues looked at by the Commission of Inquiry has been abuses of power. Policies, processes and sanctions can only go so far. Leadership and every individual knowing they must do the right thing are the factors that will cement the integrity of our service.

We are intent on providing our Police leaders with the knowledge and skills they need.

We are encouraging every staff member to have the fortitude to come forward where they perceive things aren't right. I am personally sponsoring our leadership, management and accountability programme to promote fairness through open and consistent decision-making.

Thankfully, the Commission did not find evidence of any concerted efforts across Police to cover up unacceptable behaviour and I hope the report will provide reassurance that we take all sexual abuse complaints seriously.

To any victims of sexual abuse who have perhaps been reluctant to make a complaint please, come forward.

I now invite any questions that you may have..... Dame Margaret says we now treat victims of alleged sexual assault very sensitively and, when we work effectively with support agencies, we provide an environment in which recovery and investigation can proceed alongside each other. I think that's a fair assessment. I also think we can improve even further on that. One of my priorities for this year is to work with the Ministry of Health and ACC to develop sufficient multi-agency centres to ensure national coverage of high quality victim support. Finally, I want to thank everyone who participated in the Commission of Inquiry - complainants, police staff and expert witnesses. Thank you for your courage in fronting up. The results will not suit everyone. For some, bad memories will have been reawakened and perceived injustices will remain. For others a sense of closure may have been achieved. One thing is held in common by everyone who participated: You have been part of a very thorough and objective examination of Police behaviour resulting in a series of very practical recommendations for change.

ENDS

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