20 May 2019

Officer used police computer to get info on people he abused

7:39 pm on 20 May 2019

A former New Plymouth police officer sentenced to 8 months home detention sex offences tracked his victims using the police computer.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Kimberlee Frederick Knight Vollmer's offending spanned a decade from 2007 and involved six female victims all of whom he had met through his work as a police sergeant.

The 48-year-old's sexual offences included rubbing his erect penis against one victim and pulling down another's top and licking her breasts.

A 20-year veteran of the police with a military background, Vollmer appeared in the New Plymouth District Court today for sentencing on three sexual assault charges and four of dishonestly accessing the police database.

A tearful 26-year-old who said she was 23 when Vollmer's began harassing her, read her victim impact statement out court.

"As a result of the offending against me, I have suffered immensely, mentally, physically and financially. A psychologist has diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder and I also suffer from anxiety and insomnia due to what happened to me."

The woman said she had to leave her job because of her health problems.

"I now fear most men above a certain age. Walking past men on the street or in situations where they are in close proximity to me makes me most nervous as they could easily reach out and assault me like you did."

The woman described how Vollmer turned up at her house unannounced in 2016 and she had rebuffed an approach from him, but in 2017 he had groped her at a work function in front colleagues and her partner.

Judge Stephen Harrop said many of Vollmer's victims were in vulnerable situations.

He described how Vollmer met one his victims through work and had visited her home a number of times in full police uniform where he had helped her write a letter to the family court.

"On one visits you pushed her up against the wall in the hall way and tried to kiss her around the neck and mouth. You tried to pull her top down to kiss her chest area. She pushed you away and said 'no'. You stopped and left.

"On another occasion of a visit to her address, you pulled her top down exposed her breasts and began to kiss and lick her breasts. She was saying 'no' but you continued."

The first of Vollmer's victims was assaulted in 2007, said Judge Harrop.

"She was going through some domestic difficulties with her ex-partner. For months you would turn up unannounced often in police uniform and on one occasion you gave her a hug and made her feel uncomfortable because you had an erection."

This woman later moved to Christchurch and after the 2011 earthquake Vollmer turned up at her home and she had wondered how he had got her address.

Judge Harrop said it was now clear how Vollmer knew.

Vollmer had searched the police database 96 times in relation to his victims, often also using it to get information on their relationships and family members.

He developed consensual sexual relationship with two of the women in those searches.

Judge Harrop said Vollmer searched the database for information on the woman who moved to Christchurch 13 times.

"There was no legitimate reason for you to do that and you obtained confidential information about her address which obviously allowed you to go and see her."

Judge Harrop said although the nature of the sexual offending could be regarded as relatively minor but the key aggravating factor was the way Vollmer used his position to enable him to offend.

"This was a gross breach of trust that reposed in you as a police officer and the immediate victims are not the only ones. The police force as a whole and its relationship with the community - which is critical in carrying out its various functions - has been significantly harmed."

Defence lawyer Susan Hughes QC said her client had promptly accepted his responsibility and resigned from the police after being charged in 2017.

Ms Hughes said Vollmer had also pleaded guilty to the computer offences at the earliest opportunity and to the sexual offences as soon as the details were agreed.

She argued the sexual offending was at the lower end of the scale and said that Vollmer had been suffering burnout after 20 years as a frontline police officer.

"He can now see for a lengthy period of time he was actually depressed and anxious, but rather than addressing the cause of these states he continued to work and work hard.

"Along the way his thinking became distorted and he began to interpret the gratitude some of the victims he dealt with as romantic interest. Boundaries were crossed and that has created the matrix for these charges."

Ms Hughes said since being charged Vollmer, who had the support of his wife and new employer, had been taking anti-depressants and had been seeing a clinical psychologist.

"He sincerly regrets the harm he has done, but admits to some extent he feels a strong sense of relief that the downward spiral he was clearly on has been arrested."

Judge Harrop gave Vollmer credit for his work history, clean record, his remorse, work towards his rehabilitation and offer of reparations.

The police response

After the sentencing, the Acting Central District Commander Inspector Chris de Wattignar applauded the bravery of the victims who had come forward.

Police began an investigation into Vollmer in May 2017 and he was stood down immediately, he said.

Vollmer resigned in October while the criminal investigation was still ongoing and before any possible employment investigation could be completed.

"We are deeply disappointed in the actions of Vollmer, which do not align to the professionalism and integrity of the 13,000 men and women of New Zealand Police who come to work every day to prevent harm in our community."