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The Police Complaints Authority
The Authority is a single person who holds a warrant from the Governor-General and is responsible to Parliament. The Authority was established by an Act of Parliament for the purpose of providing an independent civilian body, outside the Police service, available to receive complaints against Police conduct and to make decisions on complaints. Although the word "Police" is in the title it is there to identify the particular body the Authority reviews, but is entirely independent of the Police service. The funding for the Authority comes from the Justice Department.
Can the Authority help me?

The office of the Authority is to provide an independent civilian body to receive your complaints if you think you have been unfairly or unreasonably treated by a Police officer.

There is no cost involved in laying a complaint. The Authority does not charge any fees to investigate a complaint.

If you have any language problems in making a complaint the Authority will provide assistance for you.

You are able to ask the Authority for any advice on the way to make a complaint and how it will be dealt with.

How do I make a complaint?

A complaint can be made in writing to the Authority direct (address below); to any Police Station; to any Registrar of a District Court; or to the Ombudsman. Wherever made all complaints are forwarded to the Authority.

Furthermore a complaint can be made by speaking to the Authority but it must be put in writing as soon as possible. A staff member of the Authority will assist you to do this if you wish. You may get another person to write a complaint out for you. The Authority will receive an anonymous complaint and have it investigated.

Once a complaint is made what happens?

If the complaint is not made direct to the Authority it must still be sent to the Authority to make a decision on how your complaint will be investigated.

The Authority examines all complaints when made and decides whether to ask the Police in the district where the complaint arose to investigate it in the first place; or for the personnel of the Authority either to supervise a Police investigation, or to to carry out an investigation using only Authority staff.

Most investigations are carried out by Police investigators but all such investigations are reviewed by the Authority, to whom you may express any dissatisfaction about any Police investigation.

How is an investigation carried out?

Any Police officer against whom a complaint is made is interviewed. Usually any witnesses are interviewed and asked to make statements, or supply information. This is generally on an informal basis. In more serious cases there is power to conduct hearings at which evidence is given on oath.

Where are investigations carried out?

Most investigations are carried out in the district where the matter of complaint arose. If it is necessary for the Authority to do the investigation, or to re-check some aspect of it, then he will send an Authority officer to the place where the complaint arose in order to talk to the people involved. Sometimes the Police are asked by the Authority to make more enquiries into a complaint.

Once the investigation is finished what happens?

When the investigation is completed the decision reached on the complaint is advised to the complainant either by a senior Police officer or the Authority itself. If the decision is conveyed by a Police officer a complainant must be advised in the letter that the complainant may still express dissatisfaction to the Authority, who will make a review of the investigation and decision. If dissatisfaction is expressed to the Authority then a reply will be sent from the Authority.

What part does the Authority play?

All complaints that are made about Police conduct are reviewed by the Authority after the investigation has been completed. The Authority examines the complaint and investigation to ensure that an adequate and fair investigation has been carried out. It also examines the decision on the complaint (ie. upheld, not upheld, or partly upheld etc) to decide whether it is an appropriate decision. If a complaint is upheld in whole or in part it looks at the proposed disciplinary action to assess whether it is adequate to meet the substance of the wrongdoing.

What are the powers of the Authority?

The Authority has power to make recommendations to the Commissioner of Police on most aspects of a complaint. For example the Authority may disagree with a Police finding on a complaint, or with the proposal for discipline, as appropriate. The Authority may require a re-investigation of a complaint if it thinks the original investigation was inadequate or faulty. It may uphold one part of a complaint and not another part. The Authority has power to recommend prosecution in the ordinary Courts or before a Police Tribunal. It can also recommend other disciplinary proceedings such as reprimand or counselling. For minor indiscretions informal disposal by a senior Police officer might be sufficient. The Authority can assist in the conciliation of a complaint.

What other action is available to the authority?

  1. A preliminary investigation or explanation may satisfy the person making the complaint of a genuine misunderstanding. The Authority could agree to the complaint being withdrawn.
  2. A preliminary investigation may allay initial misgivings. With the consent of both the person making the complaint and the Police, conciliation may be undertaken and this could resolve the whole matter.
  3. Where an anonymous complaint has been made the Authority may decide to take no further action.
  4. If the complaint is about a matter that the complainant had knowledge of for more than 12 months before the complaint was made, the Authority may decide to take no further action.
Do I have anything to fear from making a complaint?

If you have not purposely misled or lied in a complaint you have nothing to fear. The Authority and staff are obliged to maintain secrecy and all investigations by the Authority shall be conducted in private.

If you thought or believed you were being unfairly treated as a result of a complaint, you should write and tell the Authority who will act immediately on such allegations.

How do you communicate with the authority?

The Authority's office is on the 9th floor, 89 The Terrace, Wellington.

The postal address is P.O. Box 5025, Wellington,

The phone number is (04) 499-2050

The Toll-free number is 0800-503-728

And the fax number is (04) 499-2053

NOTE: Policing New Zealand is a section of, it is not authorised or related to the New Zealand Police

Back to Policing NZ Index

The office of the Authority is to provide an independent civilian body to receive your complaints if you think you have been unfairly or unreasonably treated by a Police officer.

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