Controversy over inquiry into controversial appointment of deputy police commissioner

The appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Commissioner of Police has become quite controversial, first sparked by strong criticism from victim supporter Louise Nicholas, and now through NZ First’s involvement in an inquiry into the appointment,

NZH: Louise Nicholas ‘hit the roof’ when Wally Haumaha appointed as deputy police commissioner

Louise Nicholas has worked for years to help change police culture but called for a crisis meeting when Wally Haumaha – friends of the men she accused of raping her -was appointed deputy commissioner.

New deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha questioned why Louise Nicholas publicly accused his friends in the police of raping her in the 1980s and continued to support them after the scandal broke, according to interviews with fellow officers.

One officer told the 2004 Operation Austin investigation into the police sex allegations that Haumaha, who was appointed to the senior role by Police Minister Stuart Nash last month, described Nicholas’ allegations as “a nonsense” and that “nothing really happened and we have to stick together”.

Nicholas, who now works with the police advising new recruits and supporting victims of abuse, was so angry to hear of Haumaha’s appointment that she demanded a meeting with him and Commissioner Mike Bush to voice her opposition.

“I didn’t hold back. I said ‘I’ve read your statement, Wally, and I know what you said. You put it out there about how wonderful these men were’,” said Nicholas.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has been dumped inadvertently into a difficult situation. RNZ:

Police Minister Stuart Nash said while he was was unaware of Mr Haumaha’s comments, he did know Mr Haumaha had been interviewed during Operation Austin.

“The comments are deeply disappointing and are unacceptable. DC Haumaha has learned from that and has gone on to do substantial and worthwhile work to improve the safety of women and youth.”

On Friday Deputy Police Commissioner issues apology for comments made about Louise Nicholas rape case in 2004

Today the Deputy Commissioner apologised for comments he made in 2004. His full statement is below.

“I want to acknowledge the concerns expressed by Louise Nicholas and others around my comments from 2004 regarding Operation Austin.

“It is important to say outright that I take responsibility for those comments, I deeply regret them, and I unreservedly apologise for the hurt and concern they have caused.

“That does not reflect my view or the values I bring to the job every day.

“In the 14 years since those comments, and particularly through the changes following the 2007 Commission of Inquiry, I have reflected deeply and often on what it means to live the values that New Zealanders rightly expect from their police.

“I recently met with Louise to assure her of my commitment to the work the organisation has done as a result of the Commission of Inquiry to improve our culture, and our service to victims of sexual assault.

“My previous association with those individuals does not reflect who I am now nor what the NZ Police stands for today.

“The culture of NZ Police has changed for the better in recent years as a result of the Inquiry and an ongoing commitment to our values, but there is still more work to do.

“My focus is on working tirelessly in NZ Police to build the trust and confidence of our communities.”

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters followed up: Government to hold inquiry into appointment process of Deputy Commissioner of Police

“Cabinet will consider the matter on Monday to determine the specific details of the inquiry and its terms of reference,” Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said today.

But this has created further controversy. RNZ: National Party’s outcry over appointment of NZ First MP to inquiry role

National is crying foul after the Internal Affairs Minister and New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin was picked to oversee an inquiry into the appointment of the deputy police commissioner.

The party alleges it is a conflict of interest, given Deputy Commissioner of Police Wally Haumaha himself put his hand up as a New Zealand First candidate in 2005.

His appointment to the senior police job is being scrutinised following revelations he stood up for three of his colleagues accused of rape in 1993.

The inquiry:

“Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin will initiate a government inquiry into the process. The terms of reference will focus on the State Services Commission’s appointment process,” Mr Peters said.

The inquiry will investigate whether all the appropriate information was gathered by the State Services Commission during the appointment process and if not, why not.

It will also look into whether that information was provided to ministers – specifically the police minister – who officiated the appointment.

The criticism:

National’s police spokesperson Chris Bishop questioned Tracey Martin’s appointment to the inquiry role.

“Well hang on a minute, how can we have a New Zealand First minister overseeing a process that is looking into potential conflicts of interest around a possible New Zealand First candidate? I really don’t think that passes the sniff test.”

The New Zealand Herald has newspaper clippings from August 2005 that show Mr Haumaha was announced as the party’s candidate for Rotorua at a local event.

Just four days later the same paper reported the now-deputy leader of New Zealand First Fletcher Tabuteau would instead be running that year.

Peters has just been interviewed on RNZ about this and is in his usual combative attacking/defensive mode.

It would be better if NZ First were not involved in the inquiry, but Peters looks determined to do it his way.