4 Nov 2019

Police bullying 'widespread throughout the organisation' - senior officer

7:26 am on 4 November 2019

A serving senior police officer has come forward to RNZ to back up claims that bullying in the police force is serious, endemic and happening now.

Close up of a police officer at an incident on a residential street. 6 July 2016.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

He completely rejects Police Minister Stuart Nash's assertion bullying is in the past, and that the culture has vastly improved over the past five years.

The officer is one of more than 120 sworn and non-sworn police employees RNZ has now talked to about bullying in the organisation.

He said he made formal bullying complaints and watched as they were swept under the rug.

He does not want his identity to be revealed, saying anyone who speaks out about the culture will be forced out of the police.

"I've seen it widespread throughout the organisation in different parts of the country," he said. "It's definitely a culture.

"From all occasions where I've seen it, from my personal experience to others where I've observed it on a number of occasions, it's actually behaviour that those managers have learned off managers ahead of them."

In this case, the senior officer said he made a bullying complaint after trying to deal with the problem informally, but what followed was an increase in bullying behaviour.

"The manager that I complained about, his line manager became involved and I also started to receive a series of behaviours that were unwanted.

"Belittling, humiliating, emails to other managers at my level and above that were around the country criticising my work, pointing out personal judgements."

He said an investigation was launched, but was run so poorly that no conclusion was ever made.

"From where I sit the lack of consultation by police, the lack of communication and the lack of structure gave me the impression that they were looking for ways to avoid dealing with this," he said.

"I've also been involved in conducting employment investigations as an experienced manager, and we've got quite a good structure around that.

"It's laid out in our policy, and it seemed to be that they were unable to follow that as a guide on how this would be managed."

The systems and processes the police have for dealing with bullying are being reviewed by independent consultant Debbie Francis, in the independent review announced by police.

The head of human resources at the police, Kaye Ryan, has already admitted to RNZ that senior managers have been confused about the Speak Up complaints programme which may have led to complainants becoming dissatisfied.

Current staff RNZ has talked to are dismayed at the review commissioned by police, saying it's too narrow and won't address the underlying culture.

They have more faith in the IPCA investigation, but are still fearful about giving evidence.

"There's a lot of police out there that will not speak up," the senior officer said. "I'm doing this at great risk to myself. Careers end on stuff like this.

"Police officers out there have a moral compass and values, and a lot of us don't think it's right. I'll speak up and I'm sure there will be a few who've decided it's time to tell people some of the hidden stuff that you don't see."

RNZ has requested an interview with the police commissioner, but he will not comment while the independent review is underway.

The IPCA general manager, Warren Young, has urged people to contribute to its investigation, offering anonymity to those who come forward.

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