Police discourage victims pressing charges against officers, offer mediation instead
Police bosses are defending themselves against claims of special treatment as they're accused of avoiding prosecutions against their own officers.
It's emerged police have been offering victims restorative justice sessions with alleged police offenders as an alternative to pressing charges in court.
Restorative justice is typically ordered by a judge once a person has pleaded guilty and shown they are remorseful.
However the police sessions involve no admission of guilt from officers involved, allowing them to keep a clean record and avoid facing any legal repercussions.
Tyler Pogan was offered the mediation after complaining he was pepper sprayed and repeatedly punched by a police officer during an arrest in Gisborne in October 2014.
Senior constable Steve Middleton is alleged to have punched Pogan six times in the side of the head as he lay on top of him, after Pogan threatened to kill him "and your kids".
Pogan was charged with disorder, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer and threatening to kill the officer.
But the resisting and assault charges were thrown out by Judge Warren Cathcart, who said the arrest was unlawful. Pogan was later convicted of threatening to kill Middleton.
Pogan claimed Middleton had committed "some serious crimes" and had "still not been held accountable for his actions".
He said he was contacted by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) which suggested he consider mediation. The IPCA is the government agency responsible for monitoring police activities.
He said he was later told by police it would provide him with an opportunity to air his grievances against Middleton.
Pogan declined after learning Middleton would avoid criminal charges if he agreed to the mediation.
"It's like they're trying to sweep it all under the rug and make me feel good," Pogan said.
"I don't know why or how they've been allowed to drag it out this long. Are police above the law?"
Superintendent Anna Jackson, police national manager for professional conduct, confirmed the offer of mediation.
"Police thought it would be helpful for Mr Pogan to meet senior constable Middleton face-to-face to discuss how he felt," she said.
"It is not unusual for police to consider mediation or other alternatives to prosecution in cases involving the public and police officers, on a case-by-case basis."
Shannon Parker, president of the NZ Police Conduct Association, a public watchdog, said she was concerned using mediation as an alternative to prosecution meant police were being held to a different standard.
"Police staff accused of offending are not held to the same account as civilians who commit the same offences," she said.
"It basically keeps everything off the record, and I think it's just a way of covering up police offending."
Parker said she was also concerned the IPCA had "crossed a line of independence" in approaching Pogan about mediation.
"The authority's mission statement is to promote public trust and confidence in the New Zealand Police," she said.
"This shouldn't be achieved by trying to keep police staff out of the courts."
IPCA general manager Warren Young disputed there was anything untoward about the approach.
He said from the authority's perspective, using restorative justice as an alternative to court proceedings was "common practice".
"In some cases, it will provide a more meaningful outcome for both parties, and more effectively hold the offender to account, than prosecution and conviction," Young said.
"It is included as one of our options for addressing complaints by way of a facilitated resolution rather than lengthy and often unproductive investigations."
The mediation alternative is unique to cases involving police officers.
Parker said she was unaware of any incidents where a civilian victim and civilian offender had been offered restorative justice instead of court proceedings.
Pogan said he declined the mediation because he wants to see his alleged attacker face prosecution over the incident.
Three years later, he's yet to hear from police whether Middleton will face criminal charges.