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 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.’