A dedicated anti-corruption unit to investigate suspected crooked cops has been announced after an Auckland officer was uncovered as an informant for the criminal underworld.
Vili Taukolo was well-paid to access sensitive police material for organised criminals, including about an operation into the South Island's largest-ever meth bust .
The former constable is now spending his days in prison after being sentenced two years and two months' behind bars.
After the court case ended last November, the Herald requested police release its investigation file into Taukolo and any reports containing recommendations or proposals under the Official Information Act.
One such recommendation was the creation of an integrity or anti-corruption unit, a summary of an internal intelligence report released to the Herald reads.
Outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush today announced that a National Integrity Unit will be established.
He said the unit will be led by a Detective Superintendent with specialist investigators and be based at Police National Headquarters in Wellington.
The internal papers released to the Herald also said "coercion [of police] is a common phenomenon" and proposed a review of processes and policy about information entered into the national intelligence application system (NIA).
Taukolo used the computer system to access and disclose documents linked to active police investigations.
He was eventually caught after irregularities in his use of the NIA were discovered and led to an audit by police. The audit identified more than 20,0000 suspicious queries between November 2017 and March 2019.
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The NIA holds details about police investigations, people's vehicles, locations, phone numbers and criminal histories.
There are nearly 2 million people, just over 40 per cent of the New Zealand population, who appear in the NIA with an alert against their name.
Taukolo, 31, is one of several New Zealand police officers in recent years to use the NIA for an illegal purposes.
But when asked by the Herald, police would not disclose who Taukolo was leaking information to.
"We know through our investigation that Mr Taukolo provided some information to third parties, however we won't be commenting further on specifics in relation to other individuals," a spokesman said.
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While police were willing to acknowledge the existence of the intelligence report and release a summary of its recommendations, it refused to release the full report because it was "likely to prejudice the maintenance of the law".
"A report does exist that includes recommendations to the organisation to attempt to mitigate future corrupt activity within New Zealand Police," Auckland Detective Superintendent Dave Lynch said.
The summary also showed several other recommendations to be considered to "address systemic issues and mitigate future risks".
A review and development of IT capabilities regarding user integrity and the use of police applications was recommended, along with a review of processes and policy about information entered into the NIA.
The recommendations about the NIA went further and called for "a dedicated project to review the security of these folders" to be considered.
A general review of the whole police recruitment and vetting process was also recommended, to "mitigate risks of corruption at the earliest possible stage in the employment process".
Further training was proposed for recruitment staff about the complexities of different cultural protocols, which would "increase their awareness of possible risk factors for recruits".
The report's summary also said processes or mechanisms should be implemented for staff to feel supported in reporting suspicious or possibly criminal activity by other police.
"Additionally, staff should be supported to report corrupt invitations by outside entities," it read.
"Any training should reassure staff that coercion is a common phenomenon and encourage early reporting of such approaches."
The summary also showed recommendations for national processes around the timely actioning and tasking of internal investigations, while risks to the public and police as an organisation should be taken into consideration for the prioritisation of investigations.
In a statement, Bush said the anti-corruption unit will work closely with the Police Professional Conduct team.
"Thankfully, corruption is still very rare in our organisation," he said.
"As organised criminal groups attempt to grow and proliferate, it is important we remain vigilant against attempts to infiltrate, and have measures in place to protect our staff as much as possible from compromise and corruption."
Bush, who will be replaced as commissioner by Andrew Coster next month, said the new unit will play "a significant part" in New Zealand's top ranking by the NGO Transparency International, equal with Denmark, as one of the least corrupt countries in the world.
"Most other respected policing jurisdictions around the world have established similar units to help maintain integrity within their organisations," he said.
The Herald asked Minister of Police Stuart Nash for comment on the proposals and the formation of an anti-corruption unit.
He said he had been briefed on the new unit Bush and endorsed the decision to establish the team.
"The potential for police officers or employees to be compromised or pressured into acting against the law is rare, but recent prosecutions show it is not unknown," Nash told the Herald.
He said the anti-corruption unit was a "proactive step" to mitigate risk for an organisation of close to 14,000 officers and staff.
"Cultural change within the police over the past few years has also created a climate where people feel more able to speak up if they see conduct or behaviour that does not fit police values," Nash said.
"I am confident that internal processes and systems will keep improving and that high ethical standards will continue to be observed."
The minister said the modus operandi of international organised crime networks and more sophisticated gangs includes attempts to infiltrate oversight agencies, including police.
"The establishment of this unit reflects global best practice in law enforcement," he said.
Superintendent Karyn Malthus, the Auckland City District Commander, has said police spent months analysing the NIA information Taukolo accessed.
"The investigation was exhaustive in nature," she said.
However, police would not release its file on Taukolo to the Herald under the Official Information Act unless the newspaper paid a $6000 fee.
"There is a significant amount of work involved in searching for, retrieving, collating and processing this request and accordingly there will be a charge involved if we are to answer. For clarity it is estimated that it will take about 80 hours to action this part of the request which would be charged at approximately $6000," the police's official reply to the Herald's request reads.
Taukolo is known to have also made queries about 34 other police officers and viewed personal information about them such as their address, vehicles and "occurrences linked to them", court documents show.
In all, he was paid about $70,000 by organised criminals for information.
When police searched his home on March 25 last year they found $30,000 of bundled cash in a bedroom drawer, while under his mattress were several NIA documents.
Taukolo, who graduated from police college at the end of 2016, resigned from the police shortly after.
Malthus said Taukolo's actions were "disgraceful" and police staff rightly feel betrayed by him.
"Through our investigation it was discovered that this man breached the privacy of a large number of individuals by unlawfully accessing their information on NIA," she said in a statement after the court case.
"Every one of his NIA transactions over the period of his offending were analysed individually to assess whether it was a legitimate or illegitimate query."
No safety concerns were evident for the vast majority of individuals searched following an analysis of these transactions. If Police have serious concerns for a person's safety, we will contact those affected.
Police have said Taukolo acted alone in his corrupt activities while the breaches, when discovered, were also reported to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.