An embattled North Island police boss is no longer going to take up a temporary promotion at police national headquarters.

Just three weeks ago, national police bosses were lauding the performance of Waikato district commander Superintendent Bruce Bird and said he was deserving of the promotion - for up to 12 months - as an Assistant Commissioner.

But now it appears Bird has voluntarily given up the post in order to lead the district "through a period of change", an about-turn which has left officers scratching their heads.

The promotion came at the same time the Herald revealed Bird was at the centre of Independent Police Conduct Authority [IPCA] complaint over his alleged interference with the arrest of his daughter earlier this year.

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Bird received a phone call that she had been arrested after a domestic violence incident and then allegedly put pressure on the senior officer to stop the arrest from happening.

The officer left the force soon after, but not before laying a complaint with the IPCA. Its findings are still being finalised and will not be released publicly.

Bird has formally apologised to the officer involved.

A police spokesman last month said Bird was a "high performing district commander".

But police sources say the pressure appears to now be on both Bird and police headquarters.

The decision not to take up the promotion was Superintendent Bruce Bird's, deputy commissioner Viv Rickards says. Photo / File
The decision not to take up the promotion was Superintendent Bruce Bird's, deputy commissioner Viv Rickards says. Photo / File

When questioned that Bird would no longer take up the top post in Wellington, Deputy Commissioner district operations Viv Rickard said it was Bird's decision to turn it down so that he could lead the district through "change" which included the setting up of a new 24/7 policing base in Matamata.

"I can confirm that Superintendent Bruce Bird has asked to continue leading Waikato District though a period of change with the recent appointment of two new area commanders.

"He will also manage the deployment of new staff as part of the Safer Communities investment package, including establishing Matamata as a 24/7 policing base.

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"I support this decision," he said.

Rickards said Superintendent Steve Kehoe, who was set to begin on Monday as Bird's replacement in the Waikato, will return to his "substantive leadership position in the Northern Communications Centre in Auckland".

He had also decided that police could cope with one Assistant Commissioner, and not two, in the interim "given the districts' strong commitments to implementing the Safer Communities workstreams and associated targets".

"I have reconsidered the appointment of a second acting Assistant Commissioner, however ... I have decided to continue with just one Assistant Commissioner District Operations in the short term."

Bird has been approached for comment.

The U-turn has surprised some police.

One former senior officer labelled it "highly unusual", especially for a senior officer like Bird, to turn the post down.

"I think this is very unusual. I haven't seen this before."

At the time the promotion was reported in the Herald, there was ill-feeling among some officers because Bird wasn't stood down for his actions.

One former senior officer said Bird's decision "doesn't make sense".

"I don't really think [headquarters] had their ear to the ground about how everyone was feeling ... [Bird] did get the results but I don't think they really understood the ramifications of the so-called performance stats the district got."

He said the decision to set Matamata up as a 24/7 base was made earlier this year.

Birds' position was likely aggravated by an email he sent out to all staff last month explaining that during the arrest phone call he "declared immediately that I was speaking as a father and made some submissions on her behalf".