Four disgruntled police officers are threatening to sue Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, who they say did nothing to scotch false suggestions they were linked to a corrupt former cop.
The officers were part of the management team at Christchurch South police station, where former Constable Gordon Meyer was based.
They have put Mr Marshall on notice of "imminent defamation action" and are upset police top brass didn't correct the public perception that there were "leadership and operational" problems at the station.
This week Meyer was sentenced to nine months' home detention for bribery and indecent assault. He told a suspected drink-driver she could avoid being charged if she performed oral sex on him, and groped an 18-year-old while giving her a lift in his patrol car.
Christchurch lawyer Grant Cameron is acting for the aggrieved officers two senior sergeants, a sergeant and a constable who say they will file a defamation claim against Mr Marshall in early February.
Mr Cameron highlighted comments Police Assistant Commissioner Grant Nicholls made last month as particularly concerning.
"Essentially the position is one where police leaders have been content to let media believe there were leadership and operational problems at the Christchurch South station at the relevant time, and did so when their own inquiry had already established this to be completely false," Mr Cameron said today.
"It's hard to imagine a worse example of reprehensible conduct."
Mr Cameron said the potential sum sought by the officers could be decided by a jury, should their claim succeed.
Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the organisation was backing the officers, who had been "hung out to dry".
Meyer was a "lone wolf" and the association believed police should have made it clear the officers had nothing to do with his offending and had no opportunity to stop it.
Employment law specialist Max Whitehead said because the police force was a large organisation under much scrutiny, the officers should not suffer any adverse effects to their employment by taking the defamation suit.
Mr Marshall was not available for an interview and a spokesman said police were aware of the threat of legal action.
"As this matter may lead to civil court proceedings police are unable to discuss it any further at this time."