In 2016 a Police officer was approached by personal friends who had concerns for the welfare of their grandchild. Police in another part of New Zealand were conducting an investigation into matters surrounding the child’s welfare.
The officer made repeated unauthorised checks of the Police database to find out about the investigation. She also made contact with the child’s school and another third party. The officer did not tell the child’s family any of the information she found out from Police or from her own enquiries.
The officer was monitoring the child welfare investigation for about six months before she told her supervisor that she had a personal connection with members of the child’s family. By this stage, the child’s school had contacted Oranga Tamariki to find out if the officer was with New Zealand Police.
Police conducted an employment investigation into the officer’s actions, which the Authority reviewed.
The officer’s representatives suggested that her actions were lawful because she was doing what she thought was in the best interests of the child. However, Police noted that the officer was not trained to assess the effectiveness of the child welfare investigation, and that her opinion was affected by her personal interest in the child.
Police found that the officer had, without authorisation:
• repeatedly accessed the Police database to check on the progress of the investigation;
• intervened in the investigation; and
• contacted parties to request information regarding the matter under investigation.
Police considered that the officer’s poor judgement placed the child welfare investigation and Police reputation at risk. Police sanctioned the officer, and the officer later resigned from Police.
The Authority agreed with the Police employment investigation outcomes, and recorded the allegations as upheld.