2 Mar 2021

IPCA report: Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says bullying behaviour 'unacceptable'

8:12 pm on 2 March 2021

After a damning IPCA report on the extent of the "boys club" within the police force, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says the behaviour is unacceptable and the organisation needs change.

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Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says he wants the police force to be a workplace where all people can thrive. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Some in the police force are bullied so badly their hair has fallen out or they've suffered PTSD, an IPCA report has revealed.

Promotions given to friends of management, racism and sexism, a culture of fear or punishment and those who complained were often revictimised - just a few of the findings of a year-long report which painted a bleak picture of behaviours in the police force.

The perpetrators of those actions will, however, be given a second chance.

Responding to the report, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said while the behaviour was unacceptable, the organisation needed to change.

"It is completely unacceptable for any of our people to be treated in a way that leaves them feeling disenfranchised, undervalued, marginalised, that's not part of who we are, and we won't tolerate it.

"I want this to be a workplace where all of our people can thrive.

"We're going to work with all of our leaders to enable that to occur and of course, if people aren't prepared to come on that journey, we'll be having a conversation about it."

He said there was no place for bad behaviour from leadership within the police force.

The hiring and appointment of staff came heavily under fire throughout the report.

It found the majority of people felt promotions were not made on merit, but rather who was mates with the right people.

This led to further breeding of poor culture and management - and as a result, bullying and disrespectful behaviour became normalised, condoned, and sometimes rewarded.

IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty said managers appointed people who were their friends, not up to the job, and who in some cases were being investigated for misconduct.

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IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

He said that amounted to corruption.

"It depends how you define corruption, but I would have thought that anything that circumvented a proper and established process could come within a wide definition of corruption."

The commissioner rejected that idea and said no appointments were made for personal financial gain.

"I've never seen anything around an appointment process that amounts to somebody undertaking that action for personal benefit," Coster said.

"What I've observed over time is a tendency for people to appoint people they've worked with in the past. I would be hesitant to describe it as corruption but either way it's unacceptable and we need to make sure it doesn't happen."

Coster said he was confident it was all behaviour that could be stamped out.

Judge Doherty said the experiences they heard were distressing.

The culture was so deeply riddled with fear, that even throughout the investigation process complainants were scared to come forward even with the promise of anonymity.

"We had people who were senior police officers who were rendered speechless, who were so emotive and overcome with what they were telling us, many for the first time I might say.

"We heard of the consequences of this type of behaviour, PTSD, anxiety, hair falling out."

A former HR employee from Police Headquarters said the report was accurate and balanced, and vindicated many of the experiences of people within the work force, but he worried it was just a repeat of previous reports.

"The 2004 Commission of Inquiry covered a lot of the same material and made a lot of the same recommendations and had a 10-year implementation period.

"You'd have to wonder when you write another report like that, if the commission of inquiry in 10 years didn't do it - what's the chances that this report is going to make a difference."

Another former employee who was bullied almost daily said none of it came as a surprise, but he was not confident the bullies would be removed or that things would change.

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