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New name, powers for Independent Police Conduct Authority

29 November 2007

The Police Complaints Authority has been renamed the Independent Police Conduct Authority in one of several legislative changes made to strengthen the Authority’s independent oversight of Police conduct.

The changes were made by the Independent Police Complaints Authority Act 2007, which came into force today (29 November 2007). The changes implement recommendations from the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct (the Bazley inquiry) and the 2000 Review of the Police Complaints Authority (the Gallen review).

‘These changes enhance the authority’s independence and ability to provide robust, impartial and timely oversight of Police activities,’ says Authority Chair the Honourable Justice Lowell Goddard.

‘They will ensure that Police promptly inform us about any complaints they receive, and allow us to focus our resources appropriately so that serious cases are dealt with in a timely manner. They also confirm that we are able to investigate historic complaints about Police conduct.’

The specific changes are:

  • the authority is renamed the Independent Police Conduct Authority
  • clarifying that the Authority can investigate historic complaints dating back to before its establishment
    in April 1989 (as recommended by the Bazley inquiry)
  • requiring the Police to notify the Authority no later than five working days after a complaint is received (the law previously required Police to notify the Authority ‘as soon as practicable’ but did not impose a specific time limit)
  • enabling the Authority to refer minor matters back to the Police for investigation where appropriate, so the Authority can focus on investigating serious matters (the Authority will still supervise Police handling of complaints)
  • requiring the Authority to inform the Minister of Police and the Attorney General if the Police response to an Authority recommendation is unsatisfactory
  • allowing the Authority to have up to five members.

‘The new name reinforces our independence and reflects the fact that our role isn’t simply to respond to complaints,’ said Justice Goddard. ‘We also investigate incidents where Police actions may have caused death or serious bodily harm – for example, deaths in custody or during car chases – regardless of whether there is a complaint .’ The Authority has also adopted a Maori conceptual name: Whaia te pono kia puawai ko te tika, which translates as Seek the truth, that justice may prevail.

She said the provision for appointment of up to five Authority members was aimed at enhancing accountability and public confidence in the Authority’s oversight of Police conduct by ensuring a range of community views was represented. The previous law provided for the Authority to comprise one person, assisted by a deputy.

‘These changes build on previous work to enhance the Authority’s independence,’ said Justice Goddard. ‘In 2004, the Authority appointed its own investigative staff so it would not have to rely on Police investigating their own in serious cases. We are also implementing operational recommendations from the Bazley inquiry aimed at, for example, improving communication with people who make complaints.

'Altogether, these developments mean New Zealanders can have confidence that New Zealand Police conduct is overseen by a genuinely independent, impartial and vigilant Authority.’

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