South's top cop defends officers after high profile cases

Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham says "some things can go wrong sometimes".

Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham says "some things can go wrong sometimes".

It has been something of a baptism of fire for the south's top cop.

Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham acknowledges it has been a bad year for some officers in the district.

Since taking the job late last year there have been several high profile cases involving staff. They included off-duty Invercargill police officer Ben McLean allegedly murdering his estranged wife, Verity Ann McLean (nee Barber), and shooting at Garry Duggan; and Dunedin Constable Jeremy Buis being found guilty of waging a two-year harassment campaign against a member of the public.

Jeremy Buis, who remains suspended from police, leaves court after his trial for harassing a member of the public.

Jeremy Buis, who remains suspended from police, leaves court after his trial for harassing a member of the public.

In the last week it was revealed another officer, from Southland, is under investigation after allegedly sending inappropriate texts to a woman who sought police help. 

Invercargill shaken by deadly incident
Anzac Day shooting: Garry Duggan allegedly fought Constable Ben McLean after Invercargill shooting
Anzac Day shooting: The McLeans were a 'role model' family
* 'Bloody disgusting' convicted cop still on payroll

When asked if confidence in officers had taken a battering in the south, Basham said: "It concerns me that the behaviour of a few . . . affects the reputation of many, or could do."

Ben McLean allegedly murdered his estranged wife, Verity Ann McLean and shot at Garry Duggan.

Ben McLean allegedly murdered his estranged wife, Verity Ann McLean and shot at Garry Duggan.

The actions of those officers "weighs on the mind of our staff, who day in and day out do really fabulous things".

"They are upset when the actions of a few undermine the perceptions of some the good work that they do."

Basham confirmed he regularly communicated with staff about the issues. He last month sent an email reminding officers of police's internal "speak-up policy".

The policy encouraged officers to speak out if they witnessed "anyone acting outside of our values".

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"I certainly take responsibility for holding our staff to account for their behaviour and for the way they uphold, and occasionally fall short of our values.

"For the vast majority of the time I am really proud of what our people do and I think the community is too."​

Basham would not comment on individual cases, but acknowledged it had been a bad year for some officers in the Southern district.

When staff were found "to have been acting criminally then we do hold them to account".

Given the size of the New Zealand police force, the 24/7 nature of the job and the fallibility of people, "some things can go wrong sometimes".

"When you look back at the history of the New Zealand police, not just this district, we are an organisation that holds our people to account, and rightly so."

The Invercargill shooting incident was one of the hardest he had dealt with in his 33 years in the police.

The one silver lining of that incident was the "spectacular" work by the attending and investigating officers.

He had no issue with the media holding police to account, but due to some processes "we cannot provide the context the community and the public would like to have".

He maintained police were stringent when investigating themselves and had a low tolerance for anyone "who crossed that invisible line".

"They understand implicitly that it only takes one bad apple to dent the reputation of the many."

 - Stuff

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