An employment investigation has been launched after a senior police officer described a 10-year-old rape victim as a "willing'' participant in her sexual abuse.
Central District commander Superintendent Russell Gibson made the comments in a letter to the rapist's wife.
In it he said the girl, who was 10 at the time of the abuse, was a "willing party'', 3News reported last week.
"There is evidence contained within the file which clearly establishes that the young girl was a willing party to these instances,'' Mr Gibson wrote to the wife of father-of-seven Robin Abraham.
But he said that was irrelevant because of her age and the law.
Today, a spokesman at Police National Headquarters said an employment investigation had been launched following the comment.
"The comments are in no way reflective of police's commitment to supporting victims of sexual offending and holding those responsible for such crimes to account.''
Mr Gibson has since apologised and said he should have worded the letter better.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm embarrassed by that letter, more so I'm embarrassed that I caused distress to a family,'' he told 3News.
"But even worse, we're talking about an 11-year-old girl who I have re-victimised, and I'm really embarrassed and sorry about that.''
Mr Gibson said his error was not a reflection of an attitude within the police service.
He had written to the girl's family to apologise for the statement but they said that was not good enough.
"It makes me question the police system, it makes me question the court system, and it makes me question what we call ... justice,'' a family member told 3News.
The family member, who was not identified, said the girl was now a teenager struggling with self-harm.
Abraham, from Palmerston North, was convicted in 2010 of sexual violation by rape and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
He had begun sexually grooming the girl in 2008 when she was 10, progressing to rape after a year.