Police bungle complaint investigation
Informal process criticised
Central Otago police erred by not formalising a complaint investigation that led to apologies to two Alexandra teenagers, according to documents obtained under the Official Information Act.
The documents relate to the apologies and Otago Lakes Central area commander Inspector Olaf Jensen has confirmed a review was undertaken into the handling of the case.
However, there has not been a formal internal investigation.
The teenagers and their families raised concerns about the youths being wrongly blamed for instances of wilful damage, searches by police, an alleged assault and threat made by a constable and a house search without consent.
The families complained to police and, after reviewing the case, letters from Central Otago sub area supervisor senior sergeant Ian Kerrisk, of Alexandra, offered apologies to the teenagers.
In the letters, Kerrisk said the teenagers did not receive the level of service or treatment from police that they deserved.
‘‘I am satisfied that the officers’ actions were part of their policing method and not any personal vendetta against you, but I am also satisfied that their actions were not in accordance with the policies and protocols of the New Zealand Police.’’
According to the documents, the two constables involved – who have since resigned – told senior officers their conduct was ‘‘old fashioned policing’’.
In a ‘‘background’’ notice to the area commander, Kerrisk said he formed the view the actions of the officers would, in the event of a formal complaint, bring harm to the reputation of police.
He said he thought the matter was resolved, until November ‘‘when it resurfaced after the youths and [redacted] approached me again outlining that they were still unhappy.’’
Kerrisk said the concerns were not fully documented as a complaint because he hoped to deal with the matter informally.
He accepted that he should have complied with best practice procedure and formalised the matter at the start, sending it to the professional standards department.
‘‘I accept that before writing letters to [redacted] and [redacted] I should have consulted with you as area commander and the professional standards manager.
‘‘I know the standards required and have dealt correctly with similar matters in the past. In hindsight I have no explanation as to why I didn’t comply with them on this occasion.’’
OIA documents under ‘‘timeline and notes’’ referred to the investigation into the complaint by the teenagers and families.
The documents said: ◗ A bag and pocket search, as outlined by the complainants, did not fit with legislation. ◗ Circumstances of ‘‘grabbing and whispering’’ did not fit with policy and ‘‘could be seen as a criminal act of assault’’. ◗ Some consent was obtained for a house search but there was a concern whether this was ‘‘informed consent’’ and, regardless, searching a house for a person did not extend to opening drawers and cupboards.
At a meeting with the teens, police apologised verbally if the actions of staff – as outlined by the youths – caused them distress.
Police also spoke informally to one of the constables.
‘‘He acknowledges the incidents but disagrees with the nature of them as outlined, but puts it down to an ‘old fashioned’ policing style of his.’’
Regarding the house search, the officer was ‘‘ adamant that consent had been given to search the house and was dismissive of any possible complaint about the search.’’
Police, in a statement this week, said all inquiries into the matter concluded without identifying any offenders.
No other investigation.
officers were under