1 Oct 2020

Police set out plan to address bullying

12:28 pm on 1 October 2020

Police have outlined plans to address bullying and harassment concerns after a review by consultant Debbie Francis earlier this year.

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Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

The review came after RNZ spoke to more than 150 current or former sworn and non-sworn staff who said bullying was rife in police.

A new complaints system will be trialled in November, replacing the Speak Up system with a restorative justice process.

Speak Up was at the centre of complaints from bullied staff, who said it was used to revictimise them.

Sometimes, complaints about managers would be referred to that manager, meaning they were dealing with a bullying complaint about themselves.

"We are aiming to trial parts of the new system in November, as part of our new people-centric restorative practice model pilots," police said in a statement.

The Francis report said an external system should be put in place to deal with bullying complaints, but the police are implementing a new internal system.

The progress report released this morning said this is so police is responsible for its own staff.

"We think a new internal model, with appropriate end-to-end support, is the best option for our people," the progress report reads.

"The new system will be based on best practice across the public service and will address all of the learnings from the 2019 review of Speak Up as well as the Francis Review.

"We've discussed this change with the review author, Debbie Francis, who supports our intent and approach.

"We hope to trial aspects of the new system, as part of the restorative practice pilots, to ensure our approach is fit for purpose."

Police said keeping the complaints system internal also helps police to enact some of the 30 recommendations made in the Francis report.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is leading a new "Be First, Then Do Strategy and Action Plan, which seeks to ensure senior leadership are leading by example.

Many complaints from bullying victims centre around senior leadership leading the bullying culture, which is something Coster, who was appointed this year, will not stand for.

"New Zealand Police has a clear purpose: to ensure everybody can be safe and feel safe - and that starts with our own people," he said.

"To perform at our best, our culture needs to be positive, safe and healthy.

"We want to prevent bullying by creating and sustaining a healthy organisational culture, and manage bullying, when it occurs, through safe and secure channels for disclosures and effective resolution of complaints."

In August, police launched a leadership development programme which is a year long course to give people better techniques and feedback tools for coaching.

Sergeants, senior sergeants and inspectors will all go through the coaching, and police said every single police employee will be trained in a new Continuous Education Programme.

The recruitment system has also been given an overhaul, with a new talent pathway police said is "simpler, fairer and more transparent".

It has been used since August.

The new system offers better assessment and short listing of candidates, unconscious bias education and training, and greater support to candidates.

Applicants for jobs now get feedback after an interview, successful or not, and there will be less cherry picking of candidates.

Bullying victims had said there was a boy's club culture in police, in which senior leaders would offer promotions to people they liked and were deemed "in the club".

The new system should rectifiy some of those issues.

The police plan to have all 30 recommendations from the Francis Review in place before July next year.

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