30 May 2012

Yesterday NZ Police released the latest report about organisational culture. This is the fourth audit of progress in reversing the findings of the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct. In previous years little substantive change had been identified. This year KPMG have reported real improvements across a range measures.

Apparently  this Workplace Survey results are similar to those of other agencies. One finding is that “..Police staff,… are more confident than the rest of the public service that poor performance will be dealt with…”. 

Encouraged by the year’s improvements, a new set of targets for the next four years have been agreed that are “… well above the average set for the wider public sector and they will be a stretch”.  A big stretch is to increase the representation of women in senior positions.

But this “good news” here is not matched in Britain where the Leveson inquiry continues to illuminate dubious police practices.  It appears that police chiefs have come to the conclusion that their officers are no less susceptible to blandishments than anyone else. The allegation that one officer received over stg 80,000 in exchange for information provided to the media seems to have motivated a focus on some practices.

Guidelines in development will prohibit police officers from accepting meals or drinks from journalists. The intention is to standardise  attitudes towards hospitality and gifts. Public opinion was astounded when stories linked to the phone hacking scandal disclosed that senior Met officers regularly wined and dined at top London restaurants as guests of News International, while their less senior colleagues were regular drinking companions of reporters.

The irony is that a blanket rule about the unacceptability of hospitality and gifts relates only to the media- as if the calculating objective of the media is not common to all businesses engaging in corporate hospitality.

These guidelines follow another policy being issued by the Home Secretary that requires all meetings with the media, whether on or off the record, to be formally noted. But is it only police officers who have shown that they let down their guard when experiencing the “kindness” of businesspeople?