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Review Of Bullying And Culture Highlights Way Forward For Police

In a new report released today, Bullying, Culture and
Related Issues in New Zealand Police
, the Authority
finds significant elements of bullying in some workplaces,
and a related negative culture.

This negative
culture did not permeate every workplace”,
said Judge
Colin Doherty, Chair of the Independent Police Conduct
Authority. “The weight of evidence suggests it is
likely confined to particular individuals, workplaces and
Police districts. However, it was sufficiently prevalent to
give rise to concern and points to the pressing need for
real change in management and organisational

The Authority’s review involved
about 400 hours of confidential interviews with more than
200 current and former Police staff about their specific
experiences and their observations of Police culture that
foster or permit bullying, harassment and other poor

The report identifies seven distinct themes
underlying interviewees’ negative experiences: intolerance
of questioning or dissent; favouritism and protectionism;
marginalisation and ostracism; abuse and intimidatory
conduct; sexist and racist behaviour; inappropriate office
culture; and lack of empathy and caring. In many instances,
the consequences of the bullying behaviour were profound,
particularly in terms of the physical and mental health and
wellbeing of staff.

The Authority and Police also
jointly conducted a survey of all Police employees to ask
them about their experiences of Police culture; 40%
responded. The survey highlighted many positive features of
the culture, with the vast majority reporting that Police is
a great place to work.

Overall, however, the survey
supports the Authority’s findings and conclusions. It
finds that 40% of respondents personally experienced (as
distinct from merely observing) poor behaviour towards them
over the past 12 months; 26% had experienced an isolated
incident of abuse, bullying or harassment; and 9% had
suffered sustained bullying.

“The underlying
drivers of the culture reported to us tended to be directly
related to the operating environment of policing and the
lack of expertise of managers and supervisors, exacerbated
by inadequate appointment and training processes”,
said Judge Doherty.

Society has changing
expectations and values, and behaviour which would have been
regarded as acceptable, or at least tolerated, in the
workplace 20 years ago is now rightly regarded as
inappropriate and oppressive. Police are not unique in
needing to adapt to changing values.”

The report
also finds that interviewees, virtually without exception,
had no trust and confidence in the existing mechanisms for
addressing bullying and related behavioural problems, or for
dealing with low-level matters of integrity. Poor behaviour
has often not been confronted and has sometimes even been
condoned. The organisation’s response to complaints has
been fragmented and unco-ordinated.

These findings are
not new. An independent review commissioned by the then
Commissioner of Police in late 2019, undertaken by Debbie
Francis, identified significant problems with systems and
processes. As a result, Police have initiated an Action Plan
to implement the findings of that review.

has changed in the last 12 months”
, said Judge
Doherty. “There are positive signs that the
organisation has turned a corner. Since the present
Commissioner of Police was appointed in April 2020, he and
his leadership team have committed themselves to a
fundamental change in culture and approach to people
management and have put in place a comprehensive strategy
and action plan to achieve that
. The Authority fully
supports the work that is being undertaken and its overall
intent and direction, and believes that it will do much to
address the negative elements of the culture highlighted in
the Authority’s report and promote a more positive ethos
and working environment. “

The Authority has not
made any specific recommendations in the report. However, it
will work with Police to revise the current Action Plan to
incorporate the Authority’s findings and monitor
Police’s progress in implementing that

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