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Female police fear reprisals

By Cassandra Mason

Tauranga Police area commander Clifford Paxton.
Tauranga Police area commander Clifford Paxton.

An internal police survey has revealed significant concerns among the Bay of Plenty district's female police staff around the reporting of workplace bullying and harassment.

The findings also suggest many local female police fear reprisals from colleagues if they report inappropriate workplace behaviour.

The national survey asked 8863 police employees to rate their satisfaction with the organisation's vision and purpose, their engagement with the job, communication, their colleagues, and workplace respect and integrity.

A report on the findings highlights a widening gender gap and warns that bullying, harassment or discrimination could go unreported by female police. More than 40 per cent of Bay of Plenty female police staff do not believe workplace harassment and bullying would be dealt with effectively.

About 60 per cent said they felt they could raise these problems without fear of reprisal.

Waikato and Bay of Plenty Police Association regional director Wayne Aberhart said the figures were concerning.

"Twenty years ago I would have gone with that and gone, 'that's probably right' but things have changed. Even in the last 10 years the police culture has changed remarkably," he said. "I'm surprised at that."

The Bay district scored a 67 per cent "agreement" rate across all questions.

The overall results were largely unchanged from the previous year and slightly higher than the national average.

Overall, the Western Bay of Plenty recorded some of the lowest scores in the district.

Survey results dipped below the national average, most notably for workplace communication, the belief that NZ police were interested in the wellbeing and opinions of staff, and enjoyment of the job.

Bay of Plenty district commander Superintendent Glenn Dunbier said respect and diversity were taken "extremely seriously" and he was confident that strong processes were in place to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviour. Confidentiality of the survey limited staff's ability to demonstrate that they had been dealt with appropriately, Mr Dunbier said.

"It goes without saying that we would like to see our staff having greater belief in the processes, regardless of gender, and we will continue to work hard to nurture that trust."

Western Bay area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said results would always show "some areas higher and some lower".

"We strive continually towards achieving a healthy workplace, where our members enjoy coming to work, the work is meaningful and they feel valued and recognised."

Nationally, the survey showed overall results had slipped compared to 2012. It also revealed a widening gap between men and women in the safe reporting and effective handling of inappropriate workplace conduct.

"Not only have females held a less favourable opinion on these questions year on year, the gender gaps widened in 2012 and the size of these gaps remained virtually unchanged in 2013," the survey analysts wrote.

This year, 19 per cent of female police had experienced or witnessed inappropriate workplace conduct, compared to 14.7 per cent of males.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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