A former senior police officer has been found to have unlawfully detained an Auckland teenager in 2015, after pressuring him to breakup with his girlfriend and move to Australia, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has found.
During its investigation, the Authority also found Inspector Hurimoana Dennis improperly influenced the outcome of a criminal investigation into his own son in 2014.
Mr Dennis retired from police in April 2018. It came after his own criminal investigation into the detainment.
In May 2015, Mr Dennis detained a 17-year-old boy at Auckland Central Police Station's custody unit without his consent or any legal justification, the IPCA findings state.
It was over concerns regarding the boy's relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
Mr Dennis and a custody sergeant, Sergeant Vaughan Perry, were charged with kidnapping the teenager, before they were acquitted of the charges following a jury trial in November 2017.
However, today the IPCA found the two men, as well as three other airport-based officers, unlawfully detained the teenager. It said that a senior airport-based officer directed other officers to unlawfully detain the teenager, and that Mr Dennis failed to recognise, report and address the conflict of interest arising out of his relationship with the teenager’s family.
Mr Dennis continues to defend his actions though, claiming he was acting in accordance with Māori lore and the police’s Te Huringa o Te Tai (The Turning of the Tide) crime prevention strategy.
But the IPCA said in it's findings, "these did not provide a lawful justification to detain the teenager against his will when there was no lawful power for him to do so".
Authority chairman judge Colin Doherty said, "Inspector Dennis’ actions in attempting to force the teenager to comply with his family’s wishes were an abuse of his influence, power and authority as a police inspector and were outside any police policy applicable at the time."
Mr Doherty also said the Authority found the officers involved were not properly investigated by police at the time. But police said in a statement a "robust investigation" was carried out in relation to the matter and officers involved.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Andy Coster said, "the fact two officers were put before the court shows how we hold ourselves to account and the expectations we have of our staff to act in line with our values and the high standards of behaviour expected by our communities."
In a separate incident, the IPCA found evidence when reviewing Mr Dennis' actions into the detainment, he and another officer had influenced the outcome of a police prosecution of his son.
Apart from some preliminary inquiries, police had not investigated this matter further or referred it to Police Professional Conduct or the Authority.
"The Authority then identified further concerns about Inspector Dennis’ behaviour, which indicated a disregard for the law and police policy, process, and procedures, and a pattern of misusing his position within police and intentionally involving himself in matters in which he had a clear conflict of interest," the IPCA findings said.
It said Mr Dennis used his authority and position to influence the outcome, and in doing so he he improperly involved himself in an investigation and prosecution process when he had a clear conflict of interest.
Further, the Authority found he breached police policy by excessively and inappropriately using his police email account for personal business, he breached police policy by providing a character reference for a family member, he used his authority and position within police in an attempt to influence the Court outcome for another family member and he attempted to use his authority and position within police to influence an officer not to issue him an infringement notice for a speeding offence.
"It is evident that Inspector Dennis has repeatedly used his authority and position within police to improperly pressure and influence police staff and others, and has circumvented proper processes to obtain more favourable outcomes for family members in the criminal justice system. Inspector Dennis’ actions, when considered together, amounted to serious misconduct," Mr Doherty said.
The Acting District Prosecutions Manager was also found to have unnecessarily and repeatedly intervened in the prosecution process for Mr Dennis’ son.
Mr Coster said the misconduct found by the IPCA "goes against everything we stand for".
"We expect all staff to model our Police Values of professionalism, respect, integrity, commitment to Māori and the treaty, empathy and valuing diversity, through all parts of their personal and professional lives," he said.
"New Zealand Police is a values-based organisation and the public rightly expects high standards from police staff."
He added that there were learnings to be taken from the matters highlighted in the two reports in regard to police's employment investigation processes to ensure greater transparency and co-ordination.