Police told to release assault details

Police have been ordered to release details on disciplinary action taken after an officer was allegedly involved in a punch-up six years ago.

The Otago Daily Times understands an off-duty senior officer allegedly assaulted a female officer and then seriously assaulted a male officer following a police rugby trip to Invercargill in 2008.

Sources confirmed the Dunedin-based officer faced internal disciplinary proceedings and was demoted from the rank of detective sergeant to constable.

A request to release details of the incident - including the outcome of the disciplinary proceedings - was stonewalled by police on the grounds it was a personal employment matter.

Police maintained it was not in the public interest to release any information.

That response prompted the Otago Daily Times to take a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman on August 28, 2009.

The almost five-year appeal ended this month when the Ombudsman ruled police must issue a summary: ''That [the summary] confirms the steps taken to ensure that concerns about an officer's conduct were thoroughly investigated and that any appropriate disciplinary action was taken,'' the final opinion noted.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush had also been contacted by the Ombudsman's Office, which recommended ''police now write to the Otago Daily Times making available the agreed summary''.

Police now have 21 days from the receipt of the letter to comply.

A police spokesman confirmed the organisation would ''comply with the ... recommendation''.

While police were not in a position to answer specific questions about their handling of the matter, the spokesman confirmed ''the individual is still working as a police officer''.

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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