Police apologise to man over failure

Police have apologised to a Dunedin man for an ''unacceptable level of service'' after officers failed to act on information identifying an alleged offender.

Mike Fitzgerald is now a happy man, a far cry from when he contacted the Otago Daily Times last week expressing his dissatisfaction with police.

His 14-month battle has included visits to police stations, phone calls, letters and complaints to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

That cumulated in an apology from police, and confirmation an alleged offender suspected of the crime more than a year ago had now been charged.

''Unfortunately, in this instance we have let ourselves down and we have apologised to Mr Fitzgerald for the unacceptable level of service he received,'' Inspector Jason Guthrie, acting area commander Dunedin Clutha Waitaki, said.

The matter dates back to January 2013, when Mr Fitzgerald's son, Jon, reported the theft of a bicycle and weed-eater from his property.

A few weeks later, he was able to recover his bicycle and got the name of the person who had possession of it before supplying details to officers at the South Dunedin police station.

In coming weeks, the father and son contacted police to see if there was any progress because they had yet to hear from them.

Mr Fitzgerald complained to the IPCA on March 27, 2013, with the authority referring the matter back to police as the authority considered his complaint was ''capable of resolution''.

He was subsequently contacted by police from the Dunedin Central Police Station, who apologised for the lack of action. His son later met an officer and identified a photograph of the alleged offender.

The case was assigned to another officer who, like the others, reiterated ''they would find this man''.

Mr Fitzgerald said he became exasperated when the alleged offender appeared in court on another matter, but still police had not laid any charges.

''We have just been treated like ... All we wanted was the truth. I have been duck-shoved about, lied to and pushed from pillar to post and no-one has the balls to do anything about it.''

Another complaint was filed with the IPCA late last year and, still without any success, he contacted the ODT last week.

Days after the paper sought an explanation from police, Mr Fitzgerald met Insp Guthrie ''who put his hand up and said, 'It's our fault entirely; we have been remiss here'.''

As a result, a man was charged with receiving and was bailed to appear in court later this month.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was no longer pursuing the case and was happy with Insp Guthrie's response.

Insp Guthrie said this week ''police pride themselves on providing the best possible service to our communities - whether it be in relation to a small matter or a more significant event''.

''Every day, we deal with many incidents where people express their satisfaction with the service they receive. The high level of trust and confidence our community has in police reflects this.''

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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