Police top brass are vowing to continue the fight for more ethical and compassionate policing, after spending 10 years overhauling their systems.

Today marks the end of a decade-long programme of transformation, after the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct recommended 47 changes to the New Zealand Police.

The changes came after one of the biggest scandals to ever rock the police.

Louise Nicholas went public in 2004 with claims she was raped by police officers in the 1980s, and the investigation was mishandled.

Advertisement

The police committed to reform, and have today released the entire list of changes put into place.

The report details steps including establishing a code of conduct, and putting more resources into specialist units such as adult sexual assault investigations.

The process to make a complaint about police was made easier, while systems were put in place to make sure such complaints were not only investigated, but were investigated by those without a conflict of interest.

Initiatives were also put in to increase ethnic and gender diversity.

As recently as 2010, Louise Nicholas said she feared police culture wouldn't change.

But now she said attitude change was the biggest change she'd seen over the past decade, "especially with those who are dealing with survivors of sexual violence".

"They're far more empathetic. You just hear them, wanting to do the best they can for that person.

"The biggest thing? There's no judgement.

"If a survivor says 'I was drunk', or whatever, it doesn't matter."

Louise Nicholas with was the patron of Police Wing 290. Here with Wing 290 instructors, Sergeant Bernie Boyle-Tiatia (left) and Constable Janine O'Connor. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Louise Nicholas with was the patron of Police Wing 290. Here with Wing 290 instructors, Sergeant Bernie Boyle-Tiatia (left) and Constable Janine O'Connor. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Police leadership have made it a stronger priority to investigate allegations of adult sexual assault (ASA), including employing specialist investigators, and making training available throughout the force.

While there were no dedicated ASA investigators in 2007, there are now 105.

A code of conduct was introduced in 2008, and updated in 2015.

A new disciplinary process was launched in 2012, and was also updated in 2015-16.

Regular community meetings are now held in the various Police districts. A national-level Maori Focus Forum also gives community feedback.

But with the 10 years of monitored change now at an end, there's a warning that complacency shouldn't creep in.

Nicholas said police couldn't afford to "take their foot off the accelerator".

"It's not just about assaults and sexual assaults, all of that.

"It's the whole concept of policing, push forward to be the best you can.

"Those at the top have to do right by their staff, and listen to their staff, because at the end of the day they're the ones doing the hard yards.

"Policy and procedure is important, but it's about listening to your staff to know what works and what doesn't."

The Police report notes a need to improve communication with victims of sexual assault, as well as using feedback from victims.

It includes a commitment for staff ethics programmes to be reviewed once a year, while surveys will continue to check the level of public knowledge of how to make a complaint.

The Auditor-General's review of the changes is expected later this year, but Nicholas believed it would be a positive report.

"They've done everything, plus more, that they were asked to do."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the problems found by the Inquiry had a severe impact on public trust and confidence, as well as rocking Police morale.

He agreed that the work to make changes was far from over.

"The conclusion of the mandated COI monitoring period does not represent a finishing line.

"We must continue to be vigilant and make ongoing advances in all the focal areas outlined in this document.

"They are the right things to do in a progressive, relevant organisation, and the right things to do for the people who entrust us to serve them."

Bush said the overhaul was a "challenging" process, but that was because the depth of change required was never going to be easy.

"The decade-long timeframe gave us room to try things to see if they would make a difference.

"Often they did, sometimes they didn't.

"Progress was sometimes rapid, other times less so as operational demands (such as responding to the Canterbury earthquakes) and other priorities took precedence."

A push for diversity meant women made up 30 per cent of police graduates in the past year.

The police website is available in 13 languages, a multi-faith prayer room has been installed at the police college, and some areas of Auckland are now patrolled alongside Chinese volunteers.

Louise Nicholas said she'd now have confidence to tell members of the public to complain about bad behaviour from an officer, and would expect to see it taken seriously.

"It must be difficult to investigate one of your own.

"But they're now prepared to speak up, and step up. If a person has done wrong, they're held accountable.

"It was definitely not that way in the past."

Along with the 47 recommendations to the Police, the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct made a further 12 recommendations for what would become the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and one for Government.