Police Commissioner Mike Bush warned his deputy Wally Haumaha that his "professionalism must be without question" after the police watchdog authority found his behaviour to be inappropriate and aggressive.
But the two women whose complaints led to the Independent Police Conduct Authority investigation say there appears to be "no real consequences" for the second most powerful police officer in the country.
Despite this, the pair of public servants encouraged others to speak up about inappropriate behaviour.
The rebuke from Bush, communicated verbally and in writing to Haumaha, was referenced in his letter to Police Minister Stuart Nash in January but released to the Herald this month only after the intervention of the Chief Ombudsman.
Bush's letter to Nash was in response to a critical report by the IPCA which concluded some of the complaints about Haumaha could be described as bullying behaviour, in the common sense of the word.
However, the incidents did not meet the workplace definition of bullying which requires "persistence".
On legal advice from the Solicitor-General, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was disappointed but, following legal advice, could not remove Haumaha from the position of statutory Deputy Commissioner.
Instead, the matter was to be dealt with as an employment matter and Police Minister Stuart Nash wrote to Bush to convey his "disappointment" with the findings of the IPCA in December.
Bush wrote back to Nash in January with his response, which the Herald requested under the Official Information Act.
The Commissioner's letter was released with two paragraphs redacted, which Nash said was to protect Haumaha's privacy as the matter related to his performance and employment.
The Herald appealed Nash's decision and the Chief Ombudsman, Judge Peter Boshier, agreed there was a "strong public interest" for the full letter to be released.
The two redacted paragraphs state:
"Although the investigation did not find evidence of bullying, the IPCA's findings in respect of inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour are issues that I have, and will continue to, address with Wally as his supervisor," Bush wrote.
"I have communicated my expectations to DC Haumaha, both in person and in writing. He has been advised that his role as the Statutory Deputy must be beyond reproach and his professionalism must be without question.
"DC Haumaha unequivocally understands that his behaviour must align with the values of our organisation at all times."
This year, Haumaha has taken a central role in liaising with Muslim leaders following the horrors of the Christchurch mosque shootings and negotiating with protesters over the land dispute at Ihumātao.
He's also retained the support of influential Māori leaders who rejected the IPCA findings, as well as New Zealand First MPs such as Shane Jones.
The IPCA investigation was launched in August 2018 after two women - who worked for the Justice Ministry and Corrections - laid formal complaints about Haumaha's behaviour on a joint project.
The two women told the Herald that the recently released letter showed Commissioner Mike Bush could only say the police as an organisation - not Haumaha himself - accepted the IPCA report.
"It's telling that Bush can't go so far as to say Haumaha owns his own behaviour," the women said.
"His MO is an old-school style that thankfully is becoming less acceptable by the day. While there appear to be no real consequences for DC Haumaha, we'd still encourage others to speak up and say it's not okay."
The women also noted new protocol put in place following a review by the State Services Commission - which was also triggered by their complaints - which they said empowered public servants to speak up and feel safe at work.
The SSC review found Justice and Corrections did not have robust processes - and poor communication - when concerns were first raised by the women in June 2016.
"But for us the most concerning issue is that, despite what was said at the meeting, no one in the senior leadership within Police (beyond Deputy Commissioner Haumaha) was told about the women's allegation until early August 2016," Hughes wrote.
The IPCA upheld their complaints - which they made after the Herald
- although Haumaha's behaviour towards the former Corrections staff member was considered "not unreasonable" on two incidents.
On another incident, she contributed to the argument but the IPCA found Haumaha was determined to assert his authority and did so "loudly, aggressively and argumentatively".
One of Haumaha's senior staff members intervened twice.
"His behaviour, in entering into an argument in front of other staff and members of the team, and in asserting himself as he did [including by putting his leg on the chair immediately in front of [the complainant], was inappropriate and unprofessional," the IPCA wrote.
"On any reasonable view of it, it was intimidating, whether it was designed to be or not."
The police oversight body also investigated complaints Haumaha contacted police staff seeking their support when he learned the Herald was asking questions about the allegations.
Despite the fact Haumaha was acting on legal advice, the IPCA said this was "improper" and staff felt like they could not refuse without fear of repercussions for their career.
Haumaha also acted improperly by divulging private and confidential information about one of the complainants - sent to him by her former manager at Corrections - in an attempt to discredit her, the IPCA found.
The chief executive of Corrections, Rachel Leota,
and a complaint has been laid with the Privacy Commissioner John Edwards.