10 Feb 2016

IPCA: Not enough money for all complaints

5:44 pm on 10 February 2016

The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has not investigated some complaints of excessive force by police because it does not have enough money, it says.

generic arrest person in handcuffs

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The authority told the Law and Order Select Committee today it had been running operating deficits for the past four financial years, which had put significant pressure on its cashflow.

Group manager of operations Warren Young said the authority had been living on its reserves, and it could no longer do that.

There had been cases it had not independently investigated because it had been beyond its resources to do so, Dr Young said.

"There have been occasionally matters we have referred back to the police where, if we'd had the resource, we might have investigated, including excessive force cases, but the ones that we regard as critical cases and most significant, we do always investigate."

The IPCA got about 2500 complaints a year, all of which were important to the complainants, he said.

"But ultimately it is important that the police take responsibility for some of those matters as well, and that is why we have a practice of referring a lot of cases back to the police with our active oversight."

Green Party police spokesperson David Clendon said that put the police in a difficult position.

"If they do a good job, nobody will believe them. If they fail to do a good job, their own integrity is at risk there. I think it is simply unacceptable that they should be put in that position.

"The IPCA was established for very good reasons, it's performed very well over a number of years, I think it has a very high level of public confidence - and that's that we're putting at risk."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush

Police Commissioner Mike Bush Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the public could be confident those investigations would be undertaken properly.

"We take really seriously any complaints about our staff behaviour and we investigate all of those things and we hold our people to a high level of account, and those investigations are managed very very well, so you can have confidence."

Justice Minister Amy Adams, who has responsibility for the IPCA, said she thought the authority was adequately funded for what it did.

"We've been watching its operations, they've seen an increase in low severity claims, but actually the most expensive and most serious have been tracking down if anything."

Ms Adams said every agency would like more money and would be able to do more if they had it.

"Some of their financial pressure is due to some corporate decisions they made. They were paying two lease costs at the same time because they didn't get that quite right, so I'm comfortable that they have a good level of funding for what they do.

"And, look, when they've had large scale one-off inquiries we've typically given them extra one-off funding to deal with that."

Ms Adams said the IPCA had not asked her for any more money, but if they did she would work through the request with them.

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