Police Minister Judith Collins has given a sharp warning to her senior officers to speed up the "culture change" required by the Bazley inquiry into police sexual misconduct three years ago.
Speaking exclusively to the Herald yesterday, she said she was determined to repair a "disconnect" between police bosses and their staff.
She has told incoming Police Commissioner Peter Marshall of her expectations, and says they will be a high priority when she considers the position of deputy commissioner.
Present Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope will end his five-year term in April, and it is not known if he will seek another term.
In June last year, the Auditor-General made several recommendations for police changes after a damning report from the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct in 2007.
The three-year inquiry, conducted by Dame Margaret Bazley, received 313 complaints of sexual assault against 222 police officers, including 141 in which Dame Margaret said the evidence was strong enough to warrant criminal charges or disciplinary action.
The Auditor-General's June report said police were at a "critical point".
It said change could become embedded only once a critical mass of police officers understood and supported the need for it.
"Without more concerted effort now, there is a risk that progress will stall, the achievements of the police's change programme to date will dissipate, and the benefits of change will not be realised.
"That cultural change would have to include no tolerance of any sexually inappropriate behaviour by police officers."
Ms Collins said the police response had been satisfactory, but she gave a warning to those at the top that she expected the pace of change to increase.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, particularly from senior appointments, to make sure everyone is held to very high standards."
She said that despite some improvements, more work was needed to bridge the "disconnect" between head office and frontline staff and to plug gaps in the police code of conduct.
Two gaps were that the code did not cover sexual misconduct against other staff, or inappropriate sexual relationships between staff.
Ms Collins said she did not know if Mr Pope wanted to re-apply for his job when his term expired on April 3, but the culture change would be high in her mind in determining who would get the job.
The minister will make the decision, in consultation with Prime Minister John Key.
"I have no set view about who will be in that position, whether it will be Mr Pope or whether it will be someone else," she said.
Mr Pope was appointed to a five-year term in April 2006, at the same time Howard Broad was made Police Commissioner.
Mr Broad announced last year that he would be standing down at the end of his term.
Mr Pope was passed over for the top job, which went to Mr Marshall.
The Auditor-General's main recommendations for the police in June last year:
* Build on the high degree of commitment at senior levels to change, and ensure that all staff understand and support the need for change within the police.
* Further value and learn from the views of people external to the police.
* Monitor the service effects of the changes they are making.
* Improve the behaviour of the small number of police officers whose behaviour - including instances of sexually inappropriate behaviour - is inconsistent with the police code of conduct.