April 18 2014, updated 12:05pm

Police criticise morality lessons

Last updated 00:00 30/08/2007

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Police training lessons in morality are being laughed off by officers as hypocritical and a waste of time.
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The police have made the training package, Making Ethics Real, mandatory across all police districts.

The aim is to equip police with "a commitment to goodness" to "recognise evil" and "confront it more effectively".

National police spokesman Jon Nielson said that over the past year, 105 police had been trained to deliver the sessions, which "ensured a consistent approach to ethics training".

The sessions follow a series of high-profile rape cases, including the conviction of two former officers.

"The importance of a nationally consistent ethics training programme was also reinforced by Dame Margaret Bazley in her Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, where she recommends all police staff receive regular training in ethics," Nielson said.

Some senior officers have told The Press the sessions were "laughable" and a "waste of time".

"The vast majority have found it to be laughable. If you have not got (morals), you are not going to be taught it," said an officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police had to attend the half-day sessions to learn about ethics and integrity within the force, he said.

Many officers had questioned the sessions when "top-end" police were under fire, such as human resources general manager Wayne Annan who was caught last month sanitising police recruit figures in an official report.

Annan claimed new recruits were brighter than serving police officers but omitted the test results of poor-performing recruits.

"Why can management teach ethics to officers but it doesn't apply to seniors? It's strange you have got ethical training – which is mandatory – when you see what's going on in the top end," the officer said.

During the session, officers had to debate the "rights and wrongs" of different scenarios, he said, "such as knocking off five minutes early – whether it's ethical to say you left at 4pm on your timesheet but you actually left at 3.55pm".

Other scenarios presented to police included whether it was ethical to visit a brothel and how they would respond to an incident while off duty, he said.

"There are a lot of grey areas. All it has taught everyone is that nobody knows," the officer said.

Another senior officer said the course was like teaching police to "suck eggs".

"They are telling us nothing we don't know anyway," he said.

"To me, what a waste of time. I think it's a spin-off from the court cases up north, but who knows what goes on in their heads?"

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Police management should be concentrating on lifting the standards of recruits rather than teaching senior officers how to be ethical, he said.

"They say the standards have not dropped, but they have. I went in 15 years ago and they are totally different," he said.

"When you drop the standards, the chances of having the wrong person come through are greater.

"When you have been in a long time, you are really moulded to the system. I would be more worried about the new ones coming through."

Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas said the ethics training seemed "bizarre".

Her allegations of rape by police in the 1980s prompted the Government to establish the commission, headed by Bazley, last year.

"If you have got a bad egg, that training is not going to stop him from being a bad egg," Nicholas said.

Police Association vice-president Stuart Mills said the association backed the ethics training. "It was part of the recommendations from the commission of inquiry."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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