A police recruiting advertisement which used the line "We've got a lot in common with cougars, we like 'em young too" was pulled just before the release of a critical report on the force culture.
The ad appeared online and in print.
According to urbandictionary.com, the term cougar refers to older women who "hunt" for younger men, often at clubs and bars.
The commercial, which ran for about two weeks in late December, was pulled before the release of the report prepared for the State Services Commission in the wake of the commission of inquiry into police conduct.
The report said the culture within the force seemed to have reached a plateau and fundamental change was needed.
The commercial effectively targeted potential officers, with 25,000 online inquiries, police told Radio New Zealand.
Dave Basset of marketing company BrandNew said police had failed to see how the ad could be negatively perceived.