Warnings are a matter of everyday life for the police, so it's surprising to consider the highest levels of the force seemingly failed to heed them over the Wally Haumaha affair.

The appointment of Haumaha to Deputy Commissioner has kindled into conflagration as questions are asked about how much was known, and by whom, before the promotion was made.

The inquiry into the Haumaha appointment chaired by Dr Pauline Kingi will do the important work of "examining, identifying and reporting on the adequacy of the process". Under the terms of reference, the Kingi inquiry will focus on the role of the State Services Commission but "may consider other matters that come to its notice in the course of its inquiries".

That's well and good, but it's already evident thanks to the work of investigative journalists Jared Savage and Phil Kitchin that warnings on Haumaha were there.


It seems Police Commissioner Mike Bush was warned at some stage about Haumaha's connections with the disgraced officers at the centre of the rape allegations which led to a Commission of Inquiry in 2004 and Dame Margaret Bazley's damning report in 2007 - though we don't know exactly what form that warning took.

Interviewed in 2004 by detectives investigating Louise Nicholas' rape complaint, Haumaha described the culture in the Rotorua 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 officer told the investigating detectives he had heard Haumaha call Nicholas' complaint "a nonsense" and had said, "something along the lines ... nothing really happened and we have to stick together".

If Haumaha's comments at the time seem extraordinary, his expression of regret and apology since they came to light notwithstanding, it seems all the more astonishing for our police chiefs to keep compounding the error of judgment.

Time and the lessons imparted by the painful discovery process during the Bazley inquiry have put Haumaha's conceit beyond the pale.

Over recent years, police have been granted increasing discretion to issue warnings for infringements which may otherwise unnecessarily clutter the courts system.

Comparably then in this case, Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement is reported to have issued a warning about Haumaha.

When infringements are not heeded, and the fee not paid on time, the penalty compounds to a fine. Non-payment of the fine escalates and the matter is elevated.

If, as previously reported, the culture in the police at the time Haumaha made his comments was "unacceptable" then Bush should have heeded the warning.