A police inspector has questioned the morals, values and tikanga of witnesses who didn't come forward to "tell the truth" as he stood trial, accused of kidnapping a teenage boy.
Inspector Hurimoana Dennis, 52, and Sergeant Vaughan Perry, 45, were today acquitted on three counts of kidnapping by a jury in the High Court at Auckland.
They had been on trial for the past two weeks.
Dennis and Perry appeared comforted by the verdicts and shook hands before Justice Edwin Wylie told both men they were free to go.
Supporters of the men exhaled in relief and began clapping in the public gallery.
The officers were jointly charged with twice kidnapping the teen in 2015.
The young Auckland man, now 19, claimed the inspector and sergeant locked him in a prison cell at the Auckland Central Police Station, threatened him with a rape charge, and "deported" him to Australia to end his relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
The incidents occurred as the teens' families argued over the relationship, and after the boy's mother had filed a formal complaint with police about her son.
But Detective Sergeant Neil Hilton, the officer tasked with the complaint, found that no charges should be laid.
Dennis, a family friend and the police national Maori strategic adviser, organised a "mock arrest" to scare the teen off the relationship on May 5, 2015.
Speaking to the press after the verdicts, Dennis said the last two and a half years of his life and that of his family has been "absolutely humiliating".
"My actions, or my involvement with this investigation and this issue, can best be described as practicable common sense, big picture policing, with a bit of heart," he said.
"The only thing that Vaughan and I have done wrong is be very proud Maori officers - who were quite vocal about the number of Maori men coming into the judicial system."
He added: "The only other thing we've done wrong is we just care too much."
Dennis thanked those who gave evidence for his defence, but also attacked those who didn't.
"There are some family members who should have come forward to tell the truth and they did not," he said.
"You need to go and find you conscience because when you find you conscience you'll find your values, your morals and your tikanga."
The inspector, who belongs to Rongowhakaata and Ngati Porou iwi and was also the chairman of Te Puea Marae in Mangere, was stood down from his duties in September 2015.
"In the end there's no winners with this situation," he said.
"I wish the young people well in their very young lives, I hope that they pick better role models as they move forward in their lives."
Dennis thanked his legal counsel, including Stephen Bonnar QC, who had said his client's career has been to help Maori youth and Maori offenders.
Bonnar and Perry's lawyer Todd Simmonds had been able to blend Maori law into a court of law for a successful defence, Dennis said.
He also thanked the New Zealand Police Association who supported the two officers.
"This was more than just an underage relationship, there was so much going on in this family and in the young people's lives that scared the hell out of me," he said.
He said the teenage boy's point of difference was that he had a family that cared.
"I know they still love him," he said.
Detective Superintendent Chris Page told the Herald that court "was the right place for this matter to be determined".
"This process represents how police hold ourselves to account and the expectations we have of our staff to act in line with our values and the high standards of behaviour expected by our communities," he said.
He could not comment on whether the officers would remain in their police roles going forward.
"We have an employment investigation under way and are therefore not in a position to make any further comment at this time."