New Zealand Law Society - Fewer cases closed by IPCA due to surge in complaints

Fewer cases closed by IPCA due to surge in complaints

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The Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) received hundreds more complaints during the past financial year affecting its ability to close cases.

The IPCA’s annual report for 2018-19 notes that, during the year to June, it received 3,026 complaints, an increase of 434 files over the previous year.

This unexpected increase the report says, led to increases in every

category of case and affected the Authority’s ability to bring cases to a close. Therefore, there was a decline in the number of cases being closed by comparison with the previous year.

“It also directly impacted on our ability to meet performance expectations,” it adds.

The IPCA’s Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, says in his foreword that there was a surge of complaints in the second half of the year, which he attributes to a perception in what a complaint is.

“In the last annual report, I optimistically anticipated an increased appropriation would assist the Authority to manage the then projected increase in the volume and complexity of complaints. That optimism was misplaced but only because of an avalanche of complaints over and above our projection,” Judge Doherty says.

“In the last six months of this year there was a volume growth of approximately 30%. In large part this has arisen because of misinterpretation by Police of what constitutes a ‘complaint’, which meant that significant volumes of complaints to police were not being reported to the Authority as required by section 15 of the IPCA Act.

“The increase in volume has been maintained into the next year and it appears there is a significant and permanent baseline step increase that will need to be absorbed.”

The largest numbers of complaints were in Canterbury followed by Counties Manukau.

Judge Doherty also notes that while the volume increase has put pressure on operational performance outputs across the board, the

IPCA has continued to perform well in terms of the standard of its work.

“For example, the number of publicly reported investigation outcomes has increased by nearly 60%. The public and the media have shown an increasing interest in the work of the Authority and there has been a further increase in those accessing the Authority’s website and social media accounts,” he says.