An independent Police Complaints Authority investigator who allegedly called a complainant "a complete arsehole" may lose his job.
Investigator Larry Reid, a former police officer, offered to resign after making the remarks about complainant Jakob Christie, and his future will be considered at a meeting of the authority's board after Easter.
Reid was investigating the case of Christie, whose neck was allegedly broken by a police baton when police broke up a noisy party in Wellington last September, and of 10 other young people. They complained that the police used excessive and unnecessary force.
Iain Morrison, father of one of the three hosts at the party, said Reid had told him that Christie "was `a complete arsehole'.
He said he had a serious alcohol problem and when he was under the influence of alcohol his behaviour was completely out of control."
Lawyer Keith Jefferies, who represents Christie, said Reid's remarks indicated a bias and meant that "a fair consideration of the complaint becomes impossible".
Gerry Cuneen, acting national manager of investigations at the authority, said the investigator (Reid) had offered his resignation and his future would be considered by the authority's board at its next meeting after Easter. Reid "has ceased all involvement with the complaint" and a Queen's Counsel was now reviewing his investigation.
The authority would decide how to proceed with the investigation after the QC's review was finished.
Morrison, owner of a Wellington public relations and marketing company, said he had been concerned last month by Reid's remarks about Christie and had sent Reid an email saying so. Reid had then rung him back.
"He said the email placed him in a very difficult position, that no one was denying that Jakob had been hit by the police. He asked whether he could come and see me and I refused. His concluding comment to me was that I had left him no other option but to resign."
Morrison said that Cuneen had later paid him a visit and told him that Reid's comments were "out of line" and "unprofessional".
Jakob Christie, 20, told the Sunday Star-Times that Reid's remarks were worrying, and not just because of his own case. They suggested that other people who complained to the authority might not get a fair hearing.
"People have already been wrongly done by by the IPCA," he said.
Christie said he had been hit on the back of the neck last September by a police baton while the police were clearing the house of partygoers. He had done nothing to provoke the attack, which had snapped a vertebra in his neck.
An interim report by the police about the case, leaked to the Dominion Post newspaper in October, said Christie had six convictions for disorder, violence and driving infringements, and had made racist and abusive remarks to police in the past.
Christie said he had two convictions for fighting in public, and also had driving convictions, and might have once abused police in the past while drunk, "but not that I can remember". However, he had not been drunk at the party in September, and he had not insulted police then either.
He said he did not have a drinking problem because he knew his limits, and his past convictions were irrelevant to the case before the authority.
Former police superintendent Bryan Rowe told the Star-Times that the authority should now hand the case over to someone completely independent, such as a QC or Senior Counsel.
Larry Reid had been a highly respected police officer, but his alleged remarks, and the fact that he had had to be removed from the case, were damaging to the authority, Rowe said. The leaking of the interim police report on Christie – which was clearly designed to damage Christie's reputation and to deflect criticism of the police – had to have come from either the police or the authority.
Such leaks "just shouldn't happen", Rowe said.
He said had no problems with the authority employing former police officers as investigators. However, it was essential that such officers were not biased either in favour of or against their former employers.
WHAT IS THE IPCA?
THE Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), a tribunal headed by High Court Judge Lowell Goddard, considers complaints against the police and oversees their conduct. It has nine investigators, six of whom are former members of the New Zealand police.
In the most serious cases, the authority does its own investigations. In other cases, it supervises investigations done by the police themselves.
The authority was set up in 2007 to replace the 18-year-old Police Complaints Authority. The authority's website says that "through most of its life, the Police Complaints Authority comprised a single person with a small number of support staff conducting reviews of police investigations.
"Because of its reliance on police investigations, the authority was perceived as lacking independence. Recent changes, including the appointment of independent investigators, are addressing that perception."
- Sunday Star Times