The people appointed to the highest levels of the police ought to be of fine character along with all the other qualities required to lead a large national organisation, especially the one trusted to enforce our criminal law. It is hard to believe an assessment of the record of Wally Haumaha, appointed deputy commissioner two months ago, did not include the material Louise Nicholas revealed in the Herald last Friday.
She says he was a colleague and friend of the three officers stationed in Rotorua in the 1980s, when she alleges she was raped by the three who went on trial in 2006. Interviewed in 2004 by detectives investigating Nicholas' complaint, Haumaha described the culture in the station in the 1980s as one of "work hard and play hard". He spoke highly of the three accused, Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton ("an awesome cop") and Bob Schollum (a "legend in his own right").
Another Rotorua police officer told the detectives he had heard Haumaha call Nicholas' complaint "a nonsense" and say, "something along the lines ... nothing really happened and we have to stick together".
Haumaha was not personally implicated in the incidents described by Nicholas at the trial and now says he "deeply regrets" the comments he made to the investigation 14 years ago and has apologised.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush says Haumaha has had no further contact with Rickards, Shipton and Schollum and "recognises the culture in the police at that time was unacceptable".
He added that Haumaha had since been a relentless advocate of the culture change recommended for the police by Dame Margaret Bazley's Commission of Inquiry.
The question that needs to be answered about Haumaha's appointment is, was all of this known to those who recommended him to Police Minister Stuart Nash? The question is to be answered by an inquiry set up by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Tracey Martin of New Zealand First.
Her role has prompted National Party leader Simon Bridges to raise a red herring that Haumaha was once a member of NZ First. What matters is that she chooses somebody independent to conduct the inquiry and its terms of reference go to the heart of the issue.
Outlining its brief in broad terms yesterday,Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said it would consider whether all relevant information was given to, or gathered by, the State Services Commission during the appointment and, if it was, whether all relevant information was provided to ministers.
"Relevant" needs to mean all the statements made by Haumaha in 2004 or attributed to him, which he came to regret.
It is quite possible his subsequent commitment to the change in police attitudes to women would have made those regrettable comments irrelevant in the view of those considering his promotion to deputy commissioner if they had known all the information at the time.
The police have worked hard to change their culture in the light of the Bazley report, which Louise Nicholas acknowledges. But she is concerned this appointment marks a backward step. Prevailing attitudes change and personal attitudes can improve but the past must be confronted fully and honestly.