Justice

Top cop Wally Haumaha keeps job

Inappropriate behaviour of top cop Wally Haumaha towards women does not meet the legal threshold needed for his dismissal, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

However, the beleaguered deputy police commissioner could still resign from the role.

An Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report into bullying allegations from three women found Haumaha’s behaviour in 2016 was inappropriate.

The allegations were made in August, following separate concerns raised by victim advocate Louise Nicholas about Haumaha’s behaviour and comments during Operation Austin - the investigation into her rape.

The IPCA released its report on Thursday, finding two instances where the high-ranking policeman aggressively asserted his authority and belittled staff from the Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections during a high-pressure project focussing on improving outcomes for Māori in 2016.

Ardern said the findings were disappointing, but the advice received from the Solicitor-General was that “there is not a clear and proper basis to support removal of the deputy police commissioner”.

A missed #MeToo moment?

Ardern’s decision not to sack the top cop was unexpected, following her comments about the #MeToo movement, and the examples of intimidation and humiliation laid out in the report.

However, the constitutional importance of the role meant there must be a clear and proper basis for the prime minister to recommend the Governor-General remove Haumaha from the role.

Ardern referred to legal advice she had received from Solicitor General Una Jagose, which said there was "not a clear and proper basis to support [the] removal" of Haumaha

She also stressed the importance of the separation of police and state in making sure the constabulary maintained independence from politicians and politics.

However, this is unlikely to be the end of the issue, and Haumaha could still resign.

“My expectation is the police maintain the highest standards of professionalism and show respect both for the public and everyone working with them at all times.”

Ardern said she had asked Police Minister Stuart Nash to ensure Police Commissioner Mike Bush followed up on the issues raised in the report and met the Government’s expectations.

“My expectation is the police maintain the highest standards of professionalism and show respect both for the public and everyone working with them at all times.”

The highest levels of professionalism needed to be upheld in the police, and there were examples of that not happening, she said.

Nash said it was clear a finding of improper and unprofessional behaviour required follow-up action, and he had asked Bush to let him know how he intended to deal with the issue.

The behaviour did not meet the high threshold expected of police, but Nash said he hoped police learnt from this case.

He had also asked for information on how police would manage inter-agency work on projects focused on Māori outcomes. There needed to be a clear project management framework.

PM 'calling out bad behaviour'

When challenged on the message this sent to the women of New Zealand, Ardern said she was calling out bad behaviour, and in-line with the advice given to her, she had asked police to deal with this as an employment issue.

“This behaviour has clearly been inappropriate. I expect the standard to be lifted, and I expect the commissioner to do that.”

The IPCA report said Haumaha’s behaviour met the threshold of common understanding for bullying, but was not persistent or repeated as was the WorkSafe definition.

Two women, Ministry of Justice and Corrections staffers, laid formal complaints relating to Haumaha's behaviour during the 2016 project.

A third formal complaint was made in August, with Haumaha pressuring police staff to provide information that would help him defend bullying allegations.

The report also found Haumaha circulated information which would discredit a complainant.

The IPCA did not make any recommendations.

IPCA report 'extremely troubling' - National

The National Party has long called for Haumaha’s dismissal in relation to the Louise Nicholas case, and subsequently the bullying allegations.

National police spokesman Chris Bishop said the IPCA report was “very troubling" and provided solid grounds for a sacking.

“It’s just not tenable that the second top police person can exhibit that kind of behaviour and stay in the job.

"He is responsible as the statutorily appointed commissioner for upholding police standards - what sort of message does that send to every police officer around the country, and indeed New Zealanders, when someone can behave like that and stay in the job?”

"It’s just unconscionable that he could stay in the role serving as the second-top police officer in the country and have these allegations, these findings now being held against him."

Bishop had not read the Solicitor General's advice to Ardern, but nevertheless believed that she had "all the grounds that she needs" to recommend Haumaha's dismissal.

"I accept that you have to be very careful when you’re dealing with situations like this...we are in somewhat of a unique situation, it is a concerning situation, but I repeat: it’s just unconscionable that he could stay in the role serving as the second-top police officer in the country and have these allegations, these findings now being held against him."

The National Party had already been contacted by a number of serving police officers who were "horrified" at the IPCA report and the fact that Haumaha remained in post, he said.

Corrections, Justice fall short

An investigation which ran in parallel to the IPCA's work, carried out by the State Services Commission (SSC), found the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections fell short of their duties to support staff through the complaints process.

While IPCA investigated the bullying complaints against Haumaha, it did not have jurisdiction to assess the way the Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections treated the complaints by staff.

The SSC report found the departments did not meet the model standards, although those were implemented after the incidents in question. Specifically, the departments did not put in place adequate risk assessment strategies, they did not keep in constant communication with the person raising concerns, and did not adequately debrief them on the outcomes.

Power said she recommended the SSC update the model standards to address the specific challenges brought about by cross-agency work.

The report also recommended the departments to update their practices, and review policies and practices to ensure compliance with the model standards.

* This article has been updated with additional comments from National MP Chris Bishop's press conference, and the findings of a State Services Commission report.

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