A damning internal police document has emerged that appears to show senior officers discussed not releasing embarrassing details about the "ghost crimes" controversy in which 700 burglaries vanished from official crime statistics.
The document, released under urgency to the Herald on Sunday after an anonymous tip-off, reaches to the top of the police force and has led to calls for an independent inquiry into the recoding controversy. It has also sparked division among top officers in the Counties Manukau district.
The claims - hotly denied by senior officers including Commissioner Mike Bush - are contained in an internal memo by Inspector Keith Brady, who led a review of the altered statistics in the Counties Manukau south area.
He made a file note of a meeting with Counties Manukau district commander John Tims in June 2013 to discuss an Official Information Act request from 3rd Degree producer Eugene Bingham, who had requested information relating to the issue more than a year earlier.
The memo, known within police as a job sheet, states John Tims had been advised by then-deputy commissioner Bush and assistant commissioner Allan Boreham not to respond to the request. Brady wrote: "(Tims) had been advised to let the request sit and when and if (3rd Degree) followed up with a request the matter would be addressed then.
"The direction to me was to not respond to the Official Information Act request and file the file as it is."
In July the Herald on Sunday obtained a damning report that revealed hundreds of burglaries were recorded as more minor crimes, or as incidents, which are not counted in crime statistics at all. Five police staff, including then area commander Gary Hill, were sanctioned over the incident, and an "extremely disappointed" Police Minister, Anne Tolley, moved to reassure the public it was an isolated incident. After the story broke, deputy commissioner Viv Rickard wrote to Bush, Boreham and Tims, seeking assurances they hadn't tried to interfere with the release of information about the case.
In subsequent emails Commissioner Bush said he "did not give any direction whatsoever ... for obvious reasons ie. any perceptions of conflict of interest. I did ask to be kept briefed on the matter."
Boreham wrote: "I was always of the view that (Counties Manukau District) were managing the media process properly and that they had a positive relationship with (3rd Degree) on the matter."
Tims told the Herald on Sunday he had met the TV3 journalist and believed no further action was required. "It is my belief that Mr Brady misinterpreted a conversation which was focused on the progress of the investigation."
However, Brady, when contacted by the Herald on Sunday, stood firmly behind his job sheet. "The job sheet records my conversation with Superintendent Tims and that's about as far as I'm going to go with it. I think the job sheet is self-explanatory.
"My job sheet is my job sheet. It's the record of my conversation and I have no other comment to make about that document."
Bingham, who had worked for two years to try to uncover the ghost crimes issue, said it appeared police had colluded to thwart his attempts to unearth the story.
He had received a promise he would be kept updated as the inquiry progressed.
Writing in today's Herald on Sunday, Bingham said: "I'm left wondering about police attitude to freedom of information and accountability."
He has laid a complaint with the Chief Ombudsman and said an independent inquiry was needed.
Tolley could not be reached for comment.
• Read also: Two-year search for 'ghost crimes' truth