Police staff on wrong side of law

At least 67 police staff have been arrested in the past three years while serving on the force. Some of the charges include dealing LSD, assault, drink-driving and theft.

The Police Association says even one arrest was too many.

In the year to August, 10 police staff - sworn and non-sworn - were arrested on charges including assault with a blunt instrument, theft of property under $500, theft of a motor vehicle and drink driving.

The districts which led the criminal behaviour were Canterbury and Waitemata, according to police figures released to The New Zealand Herald under the Official Information Act.

In 2011, 28 police employees were arrested on charges including impersonating police, assault with intent to injure, unlawful sexual connection to a female and obstructing the course of justice.

Then, the districts with the greatest number of police arrested were Counties Manukau and Wellington, with seven in each.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the figures clearly showed that police did not look after their own - in fact they did the opposite.

''If there were no police officers being arrested and charged ever, I think the public would have rightfully more concern that there was covering up. ''No-one who has had anything to do with police - particularly lawyers who look after police officers - would ever say anything other than they're absolutely and utterly thorough.''

Mr O'Connor said many of the cases highlighted by the figures would have been found not guilty by the courts because had the offender been a civilian, he or she probably would not have been charged.

And he reiterated that not all of those arrested were employed as police but were police staff.

''But even one is too many,'' Mr O'Connor said.

National manager of professional standards Detective Superintendent Sue Schwalger said police took a zero-tolerance approach to criminal behaviour in their ranks.

Wherever there was evidence of criminal offending, Det Supt Schwalger said, it was treated in the same manner as that of the public and was subject to the same tests.

''The police have one of the consistently highest ratings of any government agency in terms of public trust and confidence, and we want to ensure that remains the case,'' Det Supt

Schwalger said.

''However, these numbers are not reflective of the efforts of the remaining 12,000 police staff who come to work every day to make a positive difference to make our roads and communities safer.''

In October, a survey found public trust in the police had fallen, and support for a beefed-up Independent Police Conduct Authority was strong.

The Horizon Research police performance survey questioned 756 adults via email about their attitudes towards the police. Just over 80% of respondents wanted complaints about police to be investigated independently and support for added powers for the IPCA was also strong, 76.3% of those polled believing the authority should have the power to initiate a prosecution against police officers.

Police Minister Anne Tolley questioned the methodology of the survey at the time it was released.

Later that month, police were on the receiving end of a High Court ruling which found they breached the court process by faking the prosecution of an undercover officer to protect his cover as he infiltrated a Nelson gang.

At the time, Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the New Zealand police force was ''absolutely focused on the trust and confidence that the New Zealand public has in it''.

By Amelia Wade, of the New Zealand Herald. 



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