A police officer dropped a cellphone out of a helicopter while taking photos of suspected cannabis crops.
The incident was inadvertently revealed after an internal police email about iPhone 6s being rolled out to officers was accidentally forwarded to media this week.
The officer also mentioned a concern in the email she suspected some officers could be deliberately damaging their phones to get a quicker upgrade to the new devices - but police, following questions by the Herald, said there was no evidence that had happened.
The initial email was sent last Friday by an operations coordinator based at the Police National Headquarters in Wellington. It was then forwarded by a regional area commander to other officers, before being forwarded again to several media outlets by another area manager.
The email explained that all phones would soon be upgraded to the iPhone 6 but in the mean time a 'break/fix' solution meant those with broken phones could get the upgrade faster.
Officers experiencing minor issues like short battery life would be given low priority for replacement.
"However, where a device was damaged and no longer worked or lost/stolen (e.g. dropped out of a helicopter while taking photos, yes this is a true scenario, grr!!!) AND the Officer required the device for operational purposes ... then these requests would be considered high priority and either an iPhone 6 or 6+ will be sent as a replacement," the email read.
She later said: "Since the 1st February, we have noticed a significant increase in the number of iPhone 6 requests received via the Self Service portal.
"Our concern is that officers are too eager to receive the new device (as we all are) and intentionally damage their devices to receive an iPhone 6 replacement. I am hopeful that this is not the case however the increase in replacement requests is concerning."
A police spokesman said confirmed the helicopter incident.
"A police mobility device was lost earlier this month by an officer in a fixed wing aircraft which was flying over bush as part of the annual cannabis recovery operation," he said.
"This device was not located and was remotely and securely de-activated. No one was hurt in the incident and the officer was issued a replacement device."
The spokesman was not able to confirm where the device had been dropped.
The spokesman said there was no evidence of intentional damage to phones.
He said the increase in requests could be attributed in part to staff returning from long service and maternity leave and secondments.
"There is no evidence of police staff intentionally damaging their devices, despite the comment in the email," he said.
He added that replacing police-issue phones did not cost the taxpayer more money.
"All police mobility devices are provided under a managed service contract, meaning there is no additional cost to police to replace lost or stolen devices. There are standard processes in place to address any misuse of police equipment."
The officer who wrote the original email said she did not wish to comment on the issue.