NZ Police

New Zealand Police

The New Zealand Police (Ngā Pirihimana o Aotearoa) is the national police force of New Zealand, responsible for enforcing criminal and traffic law, enhancing public safety, maintaining order and keeping the peace throughout New Zealand.

The current Minister of Police is the Hon. Annette King.

Origins and history

Policing in New Zealand started in 1840 with the arrival of six constables accompanying Lt. Governor Hobson's official landing party to form the colony of New Zealand. Early policing arrangements were along similar lines to other British colonial police forces, in particular the Royal Irish Constabulary and the New South Wales Police Force. Many of its first officers had seen prior service in either Ireland or Australia. The early Force was initially part police and part militia.

At the outset, official establishment of sworn constables holding common law powers to arrest people was achieved by Magistrates being given the power to swear them in via the Magistrates Ordinance of 1842. By 1846 the emerging organisation of a police force was recognised with the passage of the Armed Constabulary Ordinance. New Zealand's early police force continued to grow with the colony, and was further enhanced with additional structure and rules with the passage of the first Police Act, the New Zealand Armed Constabulary Act of 1867. The Armed Constabulary took part in land wars against Māori opposed to colonial expansion at that time.

From the police force's beginnings in 1840 through the next forty years, policing arrangements varied around New Zealand. Whilst the nationally organised Armed Constabulary split its efforts between regular law enforcement functions and militia support to the Maori land wars, some provinces desired local police forces of their own. This led to a separate Provincial Police Force Act being passed by the Parliament. However, provincial policing models lasted only two decades as economic depression in the 1870s saw some provinces stop paying their police as they ran out of money. Eventually, government decided a single nationally organised police would be the best and most efficient policing arrangement.

The New Zealand Police Force was established as a single national force under the Police Force Act of 1886. The change in name was significant, and provincial policing arrangements were dis-established and their staff largely absorbed into the newly created New Zealand Police Force. At the same time, government took the important step to hive off the militia functions of the old Armed Constabulary, and form the genesis of today's New Zealand Defence Force, initially called in 1886 the New Zealand Permanent Militia.

Just a decade later, policing in New Zealand was given a significant overhaul. In 1898 there was a very constructive Royal Commission of Enquiry into New Zealand Police. The Royal Commission, which included the reforming Commissioner Tunbridge who had come from the Metropolitan Police in London, produced a far reaching report which laid the basis for positive reform of New Zealand Police for the next several decades. A complete review of Police's legislation in 1908 built significantly off the Royal Commission's work.

A further Police Force Act in 1947 reflected some changes of a growing New Zealand, and a country coming out of World War II. But the most significant change in the structure and arrangement for Police was to arrive after the departure of Commissioner Compton under a cloud of government and public concern over his management of Police in 1955. The appointment of a caretaker civilian leader of Police, especially titled "Controller General" to recognise his non-operational background, opened the windows on the organisation and allowed a period of positive and constructive development to take place.

In 1958, the word "Force" was removed from the name when legislation was significantly revised.

On 1 July 1992, the Traffic Safety Service of the Ministry of Transport was merged with the Police. Up until that time, the Ministry of Transport and local councils had been responsible for traffic law enforcement. In 2001, the Police re-established a specialist road policing branch known as the Highway Patrol. Today the Police are responsible for enforcing traffic law, while local councils enforce parking regulations.

The Police Act 1958 was extensively reviewed starting in 2006, after a two and a half year consultative process the Policing Act 2008 came into effect on 1 October 2008. The process included the world's first use of a wiki to allow the public to contribute wording for the new Policing Act The wiki was open for less than two weeks, but drew international attention.

Notable policing events

During the 1981 Springbok tour, the Police formed two riot squads known as Red Squad and Blue Squad to control anti-apartheid protesters who laid siege to rugby union fields where the touring team was playing.

In July 1985, the New Zealand Police arrested two French Security Service operatives after the Rainbow Warrior was bombed and sunk in Auckland harbour. The rapid arrest was attributed to the high level of public support for the investigation.

A member of the New Zealand Police, Sergeant Stewart Graeme Guthrie, was the last civilian recipient of the George Cross, which is awarded for conspicuous gallantry. He fired a warning shot near a gunman at Aramoana on 13 November 1990, but was killed by a return shot from the gunman, who also killed twelve others.

More recently, the New Zealand Police has been involved in international policing and peacekeeping missions to East Timor and the Solomon Islands, to assist these countries with establishing law and order after civil unrest. They have also been involved in Community Police training in Bougainville, in conjunction with Australian Federal Police. Other overseas deployments for regional assistance and relief have been to Afghanistan as part of the reconstruction effort, the Kingdom of Tonga, Thailand for the tsunami disaster and Indonesia after terrorist bombings. New Zealand Police maintains an international policing support network in eight foreign capitals, and has about 80 staff deployed in differing international missions.

At least 17 people were arrested in a series of raids under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Firearms Act on 15 October 2007. The raids targeted a range of political activists allegedly involved in illegal firearms activity.

Killed on Duty

As of 2008, 28 police officers have been killed by criminal acts while in the performance of their official duties.


New Zealand Police officers do not normally carry firearms while on patrol, but routinely carry pepper spray and batons. Tasers fitted with cameras were introduced following a decision by Commissioner Broad in August 2008 as an additional non-lethal weapon. However, specialist officers such as dog handlers and emergency response police often have a secure container within their police vehicle containing firearms; usually Glock 17 pistols as well as Bushmaster M4A3 XM15 carbines. Weapons may be issued to front line staff in an armed response to a serious incident under the supervision of a senior officer. An armed response by police to an incident will often be considered a newsworthy event by the media.

In 1964, the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) was created to provide a specialist armed response unit, similar to SWAT in the United States.

In addition to the AOS, the New Zealand Police maintain a unit known as the Special Tactics Group (STG). The STG, similar to the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team, are skilled at dynamic entry and other tactics that can make the difference in preventing a high-risk situation from resulting in the death of a police officer. The STG train with the SAS and are the last line of law enforcement response available before a police Incident Controller calls in support from the Military.

Counter-Terrorism and Military Assistance

The NZ Police are accountable for the operational response to threats to national security, including terrorism. If an incident escalates to a level where their internal resources are unable to adequately deal with the issue (for example, a major arms encounter or a significant terrorist threat), the Police Incident Controller may call on assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force. NZ's Special Forces, the Special Air Service (and specifically, the CTTAG (Counter Terrorist Tactical Assault Group)) act as the military's special forces counter-terrorism force. The CTTAG are a subset of the Special Air Service, comprising personnel selected from the Royal New Zealand Navy, Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army who have passed an abbreviated version of the SAS Selection course. Even if the incident controller calls in the SAS, an armed incident remains the jurisdiction of the New Zealand Police, with the IC having go/no-go control over the regiment's response team. The incident at Aramoana saw the Police request mobilisation of the SAS, but the incident was resolved by the Armed Offenders Squad before they were required.


Although headed by a Commissioner, the New Zealand Police is a decentralised organisation divided into twelve districts, each with a geographical area of responsibility, several service centres that each provide a range of core nationwide services in their specialty areas, and a Police National Headquarters that provides policy and planning advice as well as national oversight and management of the organisation.

District Commanders hold the rank of Superintendent, as do sworn National Managers and the commandant of the Royal New Zealand Police College. Area Commanders hold the rank of Inspector. Shift Commanders normally hold the rank of Senior Sergeant. Service Centre Managers may be sworn or non-sworn, depending on specialty.

The New Zealand Police is a member of Interpol and has close relationships with the Australian police forces, at both the state and federal level. Several New Zealand Police representatives are posted overseas in key New Zealand diplomatic missions.

The Police also work closely with the Serious Fraud Office.


While sworn officers make up the majority of the workforce, non-sworn staff and volunteers provide a wide range of support services where a sworn officer's statutory powers are not required.


Rank insignia is worn on the epaulettes. Officers of Inspector rank and higher are commissioned by the Governor General, but are still promotions from the ranks of non-commissioned officers.

  • Recruit — word "RECRUIT" below police number
  • Constable — police number
  • Senior Constable — one white point-up chevron above police number
  • Sergeant — three white point-up chevrons above police number
  • Senior Sergeant — white crown between two ferns above police number
  • Inspector — three silver stars ("pips")
  • Superintendent — one silver star below a crown
  • Assistant Commissioner — three silver pips in a triangle below a crown
  • Deputy Commissioner — silver crossed sword and baton below one star
  • Commissioner — silver crossed sword and baton below a crown.

A recently graduated Constable is considered a Probationary Constable for up to two years, until he or she has passed ten workplace assessment standards and a compulsory university paper. The completion of the above is known as obtaining permanent appointment.

Detective ranks somewhat parallel the street ranks up to Detective Superintendent. Trainee Detectives spend around 6-12 months time as a Constable on Trial, before progression to Detective Constable after successful completion of an Induction course. There is then a Workplace assessment for Detective Constables, and after approximately 2-3 years in the Criminal Investigation Branch, a Detective Constable may take the qualifying course to become a Detective.

Detective and Detective Constable are considered designations and not specific ranks. That is, Detectives do not outrank uniformed constables.

New Zealand police uniforms formerly followed the British model closely but since the 1970s a number of changes have been implemented. These include the adoption of a medium blue shade in place of dark blue, the abolition of helmets and the substitution of synthetic leather jackets for silver buttoned tunics when on ordinary duty. AOS and STG members, when deployed, wear the usual charcoal-coloured clothing used by armed-response and counter-terror units around the world.


The Holden Commodore is the current generic vehicle of choice for the Police - they have used Ford Falcons in the past however. Liveries are checkered Battenburg markings orange-blue (general duties) or yellow-blue (highway patrol), as well as cars in standard factory colours. As of March 2008 the orange-blue livery has been phased out and all marked patrol vehicles now have the yellow-blue livery. Both Commodore sedan and wagon bodies are used - normally in V6 form and optionally with an LPG tank fitted.

Dog handlers have fully-enclosed utility or station wagon vehicles, which may be liveried or unmarked, with cages in the rear and remotely-operated canopy doors to allow the handler to release their dog if away from the vehicle.


While the New Zealand Police is technically a government department and has political representation in Government through the Minister of Police, the Commissioner and all sworn members swear allegiance directly to the Sovereign and, by constitutional convention, have constabulary independence from the government of the day.

Crime statistics

In addition to the annual report, the Police also publishes six-monthly statistical summaries of crime for both New Zealand as a whole and each Police District. In early 2005, crime statistics for both Recorded Crime and Recorded Apprehensions for the last 10 years were published by Statistics New Zealand. These statistics provide offence statistics down to individual sections of legislation and appear to be the most detailed national crime statistics available today.

Recent controversies

The New Zealand Police is considered one of the least corrupt police forces in the world. Despite this, there have been a number of recent controversies that have put the Police under close scrutiny. While the Police Complaints Authority is an independent body that investigates complaints against the New Zealand Police, the following events have either fallen outside the authority's ambit or received significant publicity.

Historic sexual misconduct

In 2004, a number of historic sexual misconduct allegations dating from the 1980s were made against both serving and former police officers. Several senior officers were stood down. A commission of enquiry was convened but has made little progress to date due to formal charges being laid in several cases. In May 2005, the commission of enquiry was restructured to investigate only those cases where charges had not been laid.

In March 2006 assistant police commissioner Clinton Rickards and former police officers Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were charged with raping and sexually abusing Louise Nicholas in Rotorua during the 1980s. Rickards attended the High Court for the first day's hearing on 13 March 2006 wearing police uniform, contravening police regulations forbidding an officer from wearing uniform while on suspension. He had been suspended on full pay for two years from the time the charges were laid. The defendants claimed all sex was consensual and all were found not guilty on 31 March 2006. Subsequently, pamphlets and emails about two of the defendants were spread widely in defiance of previous court suppression orders.

In February 2007 the same three men faced historic charges of kidnapping and indecent assault for the pack rape of a 16-year-old woman with a whisky bottle that took place in the early 1980s.

While the three men were acquitted in both cases, suppression orders that had been in operation for three court cases involving the men were then lifted. Information that had been kept from both juries (but was widely distributed following the 2006 not guilty verdicts) was then allowed to be publicly released: Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were convicted in 2005 of another historic pack rape with an object and are currently serving lengthy prison sentences for this crime.

The police future of Clint Rickards, the former Assistant Police Commissioner who has been suspended from this position on full pay since early 2004, remained undecided, although police sources have indicated that it is considered unlikely that he will be reappointed to this position following the controversy over these cases and the acquittals which have no doubt tarnished the reputation of police in New Zealand.

Communications centres

In 2004 and 2005, the police were criticised over several incidents in which callers to the Police Communications Centres, particularly those using the 111 emergency telephone number, are alleged to have received inadequate responses.

In October 2004, under sustained political scrutiny for these apparent systemic problems in the Communications Centres, and after the Iraena Asher incident received a lot of publicity and a whistle-blowing employee resigned, the Commissioner of Police ordered an Independent Review into the Communications Centres. On 11 May 2005, the Review Panel released a report into the service that the Commissioner described as provocative, and others called "damning" . It criticised the service for systemic failures and inadequate management, and expressed ongoing concerns for public safety. Police acted on the recommendations of the review with a number of initiatives, including increasing communications centre staff numbers and then initiating a demonstration project for a future "Single Non-Emergency Number" (SNEN) centre, to reduce the load on the 111 service.

Pornographic e-mails

In November 2004, police IT staff secretly cloned the police e-mail system and subjected it to forensic analysis. Over 300 employees were found to have what were considered "inappropriate" e-mail images, many sexually explicit. Many were subjected to internal disciplinary procedures and counselling. No criminal charges were laid however 351 staff members were required to attend Insight Training seminars between May 2005 and June 2006. .

The Police Commissioner was politically criticised for being too soft with his staff, despite initiating the investigation and pro actively making the findings of the investigation public before employees were even confronted and questioned about the e-mails concerned. This investigation is said to have prompted further investigations amongst other government agencies.

Police culture

After a sergeant was found guilty in February 2005 of assault and prisoner abuse in a South Auckland police station, there were claims that the practices were endemic in the police, and strange dark humour photographs surfaced. An investigation into "Police Culture" reported on 10 October 2005 that while the defunct Emergency Response Group at Counties-Manukau used excessive force and took inappropriate and degrading photographs of people in custody, there was no nationwide problem with police culture .

Cooked statistics

Following reductions in recorded crime in 2004 combined with increases in resolved offences, suggestions were made by both politicians, and some police officers, that statistics were being "cooked" or unethically reported and resolved by the Police, especially with the use of "custody clearances" for already convicted offenders . The Police and the Police Minister have refuted these allegations , stating that the clearances concerned make up only 0.9% of all cleared crime and have been used consistently for many years.

Taser trial

The New Zealand Police taser trial commenced on Friday 1 September 2006 for a twelve month period. Some opposition to the trial has been expressed by various people, including Māori Party police spokesperson Hone Harawira, Green party police spokesperson, Keith Locke , and several high profile individuals including Barrister, Marie Dyhrberg and Sir Paul Reeves who have formed a lobby group hosting a blog website opposing their use. The first person to be tasered was an 18 year old after an incident in the Auckland suburb of Western Springs on 8 September 2006.

Since the completion of the trial it has been revealed that even if the taser is approved it is unlikely that every frontline officer would be equipped with a taser.

See also


External links

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