NZ police focused on preventing and managing bullying within its ranks

New Zealand Police is making good progress in addressing the findings of an independent review of its systems and processes to prevent bullying and manage complaints.

Since Police released the results of the Francis Independent External Review in March, it has transformed its recruitment and appointment process, launched a new leadership development programme focused on coaching for leaders and staff, and provided formal feedback opportunities on workplace culture. A new disciplinary process, based on restorative justice, will be piloted in eight centres from November and a new internal model for reporting and managing complaints of bullying and harassment will be introduced.

The Review, by consultant Debbie Francis, was commissioned in late 2019 to see whether Police had appropriate systems and processes to prevent and respond to bullying. Overall, the Review concluded that while bullying or harassment did not appear to be widespread, the way Police managed disclosures, complaints and investigations was sometimes inconsistent, protracted and unsatisfactory to both complainants and those accused.

Thirty recommendations were made in five interconnected areas: leadership, culture, talent management, disclosures, and complaint resolution. Police accepted all 30 recommendations and has developed an implementation plan, focusing first on the 17 recommendations that could be actioned effectively in the current environment.

“New Zealand Police has a clear purpose: to ensure everybody can be safe and feel safe – and that starts with our own people. To perform at our best, our culture needs to be positive, safe and healthy,” Commissioner Andrew Coster said.

“We want to prevent bullying by creating and sustaining a healthy organisational culture, and manage bullying, when it occurs, through safe and secure channels for disclosures and effective resolution of complaints.”

Police is strengthening leadership capability throughout the organisation; ensuring its values are clearly expressed and routinely discussed, and that all staff have a say in how to make their workplace healthier, happier and more productive through regular feedback. In August Police launched its inaugural Leadership Development Programme to equip first-line leaders with skills in coaching and reflective practice. Three pulse surveys and one dedicated Culture Survey have been undertaken to give staff the opportunity to give their views on how Police culture can be further improved.

In line with the Review recommendations, Police has transformed its recruitment and appointment process. The new Talent Pathway process will ensure that talent decisions – from recruitment to exit – are transparent, consistent and free from bias.

To manage bullying when it occurs, Police is ensuring staff can access safe and secure channels for disclosure and updating policies on bullying, harassment, discrimination and protected disclosures. Police is working with the IPCA and key stakeholders to pilot a new disciplinary process from November that includes restorative practices and appropriate resolutions, where local employment resolution teams will manage cases and provide advice and guidance to all parties in the process as well as access to specialist support services.

“We are committed to making sure New Zealand Police has a healthy culture, in which all our people feel safe and respected,” Commissioner Coster said.

“While Operation COVID has pushed out some timeframes, we are on track to ensuring we have the right processes and systems in place to ensure a safer workplace for our people. We aim to have all of the recommendations of the Francis Review implemented by 30 June 2021.”

The Progress Report and Francis Independent External Review are available on the Police website.

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