New guidance is being produced to raise awareness of the standards expected in Police detention facilities.
The IPCA has been working closely with Police National Headquarters on issues such as suicide prevention, custodial staff training and formal accreditation, consultation on building specifications, and areas that may need to addressed nationally, rather than just at District level.
It is separate to the IPCA’s role handling complaints about Police conduct, and arises from the 2007 decision of the New Zealand Government to sign a United Nations agreement known as OPCAT (the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture).
OPCAT requires a number of oversight bodies for places of detention. Police detention facilities, such as cells and vehicles, are overseen by the IPCA while those operated by Corrections and other agencies are monitored by other bodies such as the Ombudsman.
A dedicated team at the IPCA includes investigators with overseas policing experience and lawyers with significant expertise in human rights law. In the 2009/10 year, thirty Police detention facilities have been inspected, with some visits pre-arranged and others unannounced, as required under OPCAT.
The IPCA Chair, Justice Lowell Goddard, said the OPCAT team had been well-received on its visits, with Police officers supportive of the work it is doing and ready to make suggestions for how to improve practices and conditions.
In one District, Police officers working in court cells pro-actively approached the IPCA and the resulting collaboration is helping to facilitate improvements in the custody area. In another District, the Police and the IPCA worked with outside experts from the Fire Service and Department of Labour, to help bring an ageing building up to Fire Code requirements.
The new IPCA factsheet “Monitoring places of Police detention” is available on the Police intranet and the IPCA website.