A former police officer has accused the police watchdog of racism after it found he had repeatedly abused his powers while in the force.

Hurimoana Dennis, who had a 30-year career with the police, also says he has no regrets about his unlawful intervention in three cases, saying it was "common sense" policing which kept three young Māori boys out of jail.

He did, however, regret getting other police officers in trouble.

In a report released today, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) said Dennis unlawfully detained an Auckland teenager in 2015.


In the course of its investigation, the IPCA also found that he had improperly influenced an investigation into his own son in 2014 and another investigation into a separate family member.

It further discovered that Dennis had abused his power on several occasions, in one case unsuccessfully trying to persuade a police officer not to issue him a ticket for speeding.

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Speaking to the Herald, Dennis said he accepted that the findings did not "hold me in a good light".

But he felt that the IPCA had treated him unfairly.

"I said to the IPCA that I used tikanga Māori to shape my actions and help guide me in my decision-making when I got involved in these things.

"But they just totally disregarded any of that stuff ... When they totally dismissed it I consider that to be racist behaviour."

IPCA general manager Warren Young said the IPCA categorically rejected the accusation of racism. It could not comment further on that issue because Dennis has laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

"We fully considered Mr Dennis's defence that he offered at his trial, which was essentially that he was acting in accordance with Māori lore and tikanga," Young added.


"However, we agreed with the evidence of his own witness at his trial, Sir Kim Workman, that Māori lore does not justify actions that are contrary to law."

Dennis accepted that he was clearly in the wrong in some abuses of power, such as the speeding ticket case.

But he felt that his intervention in the teenager and his relatives' cases was directly in line with the police's Te Huringa o Te Tai/Turning of the Tide prevention strategy.

That initiative, introduced in 2012, uses alternative justice methods in a bid to reduce Māori over-representation in arrests and incarceration.

"There were three young Māori men who had made some mistakes, who had put their hand up to be accountable, had strong whanau support behind them and had admitted their guilt," Dennis said.

"Me getting in to support that, I thought was the respectable thing to do. It might have been a bit OTT [over the top] in some cases, but at the end of the day, putting them into a system that doesn't work for young Māori isn't a good option either."

Sergeant Vaughan Perry and former Inspector Hurimoana Dennis appear at the High Court at their kidnapping trial in 2017. Photo / Greg Bowker
Sergeant Vaughan Perry and former Inspector Hurimoana Dennis appear at the High Court at their kidnapping trial in 2017. Photo / Greg Bowker

Dennis and another police officer, Sergeant Vaughan Perry, were charged with kidnapping over the detention of the teenager, but were acquitted. They also faced employment investigations, but Dennis retired from the police before his was completed.

The IPCA report said it had found "on the balance of probabilities" that Dennis and Perry "unlawfully detained" the boy on both occasions.

The report said "Inspector Dennis' actions in attempting to force [the boy] to comply with his family's wishes were an abuse of his influence, power and authority as a police inspector".

A police spokeswoman said there were no plans to reopen the case or investigate Dennis further in response to the IPCA's findings.

Since leaving the force, Dennis has gained national profile as the chairman of Te Puea Memorial Marae, which housed nearly 500 people during the peak of the housing crisis.