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Police step up handling of sex assaults

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 2/04/2017

A decade since an inquiry found some officers had behaved disgracefully when handling complaints of sexual assault, police say they have revolutionised their culture.

The 2007 Commission of Inquiry into police conduct, led by Dame Margaret Bazley, reviewed 313 complaints of sexual assault against 222 police officers between 1979 and 2005.

It found that while police misconduct was relatively rare, there had been instances of police officers behaving disgracefully by exploiting vulnerable people and protecting alleged perpetrators.

On Monday, New Zealand Police released a fresh report, called "A decade of change", in which it said it had revolutionised its culture in the 10 years since the inquiry's release.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush says victims of rape or sexual assault can now expect police to deal professionally and urgently with their complaints.

"I'm pleased to report we have changed significantly, having implemented all 47 police-specific COI recommendations," he said.

"Victims of sexual assault who turn to police today can expect to deal with staff who uphold our values of empathy, professionalism, and respect."

Prime Minister Helen Clark ordered the commission of inquiry in 2004 after the publication of allegations by Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas about the handling of historic rape complaints against police officers.

When completing the inquiry in 2007, Dame Margaret said that while the public should have confidence in the ability of police to handle allegations of sexual assault, the organisation needed to improve its policies and guard against future misconduct.

"The risk that misconduct, particularly sexual misconduct, poses to public confidence in the police is a significant one," she said.

Mr Bush said police had subsequently adopted recommendations, such as improving how they talk to and victims of sexual assault and how they keep them up-to-date on the progress of their allegations.

Police had also put in place policies to allow the public to make complaints against officers and then easily track the progress of the complaints.

They had also broadened the range of people working as officers, Mr Bush said.

"More than ever before, we have a healthy, diverse and inclusive culture," he said.

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