Police handling of poaching complaint
5 November 2019
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has determined that allegations of a delay in an investigation by a Southern District sole-charge Police officer into alleged game-poaching in May 2018 were unfounded. The Authority also found that perceived conflicts of interest arose in relation to the matter; however, actions taken by the officer which contributed to these were reasonable, and Police policy relating to managing conflicts of interest is inadequate in terms of its practicality in a small, rural community.
Officer A told the Authority that in the course of his investigation, the landowner who had laid the complaint had invited him to hunt on his land; he had declined but offered to put the landowner in touch with experienced hunters who would pass on any information about poaching or other suspicious activity on his land. Officer A explained that hunting opportunities are "a conversation piece" in rural areas, and he often connects landowners and hunters, some of whom happen to be current or former Police employees. The Authority found that this could result in a perceived conflict of interest; however, Officer A's actions were reasonable in the circumstances.
The possibility of a perceived conflict of interest arising was a result of Officer A's role as the sole Police contact in a geographically large area and his development of networks designed to increase his profile and enhance his ability to address the community's concerns.
"It would be unreasonable to expect Officer A to formally report all potential or perceived conflicts of interest of this nature as Police policy requires. Strategies suggested by policy for managing conflicts of interest would also be impractical in this setting" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority is currently undertaking a review of issues relating to the policing of small communities in New Zealand. The issue of conflicts of interest has been identified as a main area of focus. A more detailed discussion of the ways in which Police can best support officers working in these environments, including any recommendations for changes to policy, will be included in the Authority's report on its findings at the conclusion of that review.
Alleged failure to investigate poaching (PDF 380 KB)