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Police accept IPCA findings after death in custody

Police accept the findings of an Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report into the death of a man in custody in 2017, and have made significant changes to practice as a result.

The IPCA investigated the circumstances of a man’s death of a drug overdose in the Hawke’s Bay Custody Unit (HBCU) on Monday 13 November 2017.

The findings of this investigation raised serious concerns with the evaluation and monitoring of the man during his detention, and with the training and supervision of custody staff.

A number of substantial changes have been introduced to strengthen practice and procedure when dealing with detainees, and to bring about wider improvements to the operation of the Hawke’s Bay Custody Unit (HBCU) and across the Eastern Police District.

The changes have included the prioritisation of induction and training programmes, improvements to the way custody staff are supervised and supported and improved adherence to auditing and reporting requirements.

“This was a tragic incident and my deepest sympathies remain with the man’s whanau.

I am very disappointed that on this occasion we did not follow the standards and policies established to keep detainees safe.

The staff involved acknowledge they failed to adhere to the procedures,” said Eastern District Commander Superintendent Tania Kura.

“We have taken the findings of this report extremely seriously, in particular the concerns raised around the operation of the Custody Unit and the care provided to detainees.

“The IPCA has recognised that extensive changes have been implemented in the HBCU which have led to improvements in training and induction procedures for staff working in the custody team, and for how detainees are assessed, monitored and cared for.

“New scanning equipment has also been introduced to assist staff searching detainees and we now have the expertise of a mental health nurse working alongside our custody team Monday - Friday."

The custody unit can be a challenging environment to work in as staff are asked to support people who are in a very vulnerable and often highly charged state.

“We are a values based organisation and one of those values we work to is empathy.

This needs to be displayed in our custody units as we work to care for and support those people who are detained with us.”

A Custody Review Working Group has also been created to continue to monitor the quality of custodial care environments across the Eastern District, as well as supporting the staff who work in challenging conditions.

The working group is an important platform for sharing lessons learnt and improving practice.

“Our focus is on caring for people as individuals and ensuring there are processes and systems in place to support this approach.”

Police notes the IPCA’s comment that Police could be held criminally liable for the death under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

We can confirm that the matter was referred to WorkSafe and they have informed us that they do not intend to investigate.


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