It’s no bad thing to say sorry sometimes, but the cops are faster to apprehend than apologise

"And if the complaints authority says we shouldn't have done this, we might consider an apology."

Sports broadcaster Tony Veitch shouldn’t hold his breath on the matter of the apology from the police that was suggested by The Independent Police Conduct Authority.

The authority last week said the cops should apologise to Veitch – or rather, consider apologising – after a file containing unsubstantiated claims relating to his 2008 assault on Kristin Dunne-Powell (his girl friend at the time) was released to media.

But the cops don’t do apologies.

Not in a hurry, anyway.

The buggers behaved badly when they blundered in the case of a Tokoroa woman back in 2005.

They wrongly accused her of arson of a pre-school.

Only now have they formally apologised to her and her family for arresting her.

Radio NZ today says the case was the subject of an Independent Police Conduct Authority review, which found that police actions against Mii Teotokai, a justice of the peace, were unprofessional, unreasonable and unjustified.

The authority reported its findings last year.

And now –

Bay of Plenty district commander, Superintendant Glenn Dunbier, says he apologised unreservedly to Mrs Teotokai and her family on Tuesday for any stress or harm caused.

Mrs Teotokai’s son-in-law, David White, a former policeman, lodged the original complaint, saying at the time that he could not understand the actions of former colleagues.

An NZPA report tells us a bit more –

Mii Teotokai, a justice of the peace and a respected member of the Pacific Island community, was wrongly arrested for the 2005 arson of Tokoroa’s St Lukes Tamariki and Mokopuna learning facility where she worked.

She lost her job as a result of the police investigation but the charge was later dismissed for lack of evidence and another woman was later jailed for the arson.

Former policeman Dave White complained about his mother-in-law Mrs Teotokai’s arrest and in 2009 the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the investigation leading up to Mrs Teotokai’s arrest was “unprofessional”.

The IPCA did not make public its findings.

Curiously, it deemed them not of sufficient public interest and did not recommend any disciplinary action against the officers in the investigation.

Bay of Plenty district commander Superintendent Glenn Dunbier today formally apologised to Mrs Teotokai on behalf of New Zealand Police “for any stress or harm” caused by her wrongful arrest.

Police also apologised to St Lukes and the wider Pacific community for “poor police practice that may have contributed to any ill-feeling within the community toward Mrs Teokotai”.

“The arrest and actions subsequent to arrest were not in accordance with police best practise and at times were inappropriate, causing unnecessary harm to the reputation of Mrs Teokotai,” Mr Dunbier said.

Dunbier said it was important for police to ” stand up and apologise when we get it wrong”.

But didn’t the cops know they had got it wrong when somone else was arrested for the arson?

That’s why Tony Veitch might have to wait a while for his apology. If he ever gets one.

The police conduct authority issued its report on the cops’ handling his case on 24 February.

The investigation found “a number of errors” in “a case that has wider public interest implications”.

The complaint was laid after the cops released information about six assault charges which were dismissed by the court, “and without first honouring an undertaking to consult over the release”.

This case had its origins in 18 August 2008 when Veitch was arrested and charged with six counts of assault on a female and one of injuring with reckless disregard.

On 16 April 2009 Veitch pleaded guilty in the Auckland District Court to the charge of injuring Kristin Dunne-Powell with reckless disregard for her safety.

He was fined $10,000, placed under supervision for nine months and ordered to complete 300 hours of community work.

The Crown offered no evidence in relation to the six charges of assault on a female and they were dismissed.

But on 20 May 2009 the cops released 358 documents from the investigation file to news media in response to a request made under the Official Information Act (OIA).

The documentation included statements containing allegations relating to the six charges which the Crownhad never been proven in court.

Mr Veitch’s complaint is that, had there been any indication that Police intended releasing information to the news media about charges which were not substantiated in Court, he would have proceeded to defend all of Ms Dunne-Powell’s allegations.

The authority found no precedent in which documents of the type released in this case were handed over to the news media after the coips decided not to proceed with charges and the courts had dismissed them.

The report says –

“The issues have implications beyond their personal and professional effect on Mr Veitch and raise questions of public importance around personal information held by Police.”

Among the findings –

“While Police have a duty to properly inform the public about investigations and other law enforcement activities, Police do not have a public interest role to ‘balance’ media debate or discussion. That is not consistent with the role of Police in the administration of justice.”

The authority recommended that Police consider making a public apology to Veitch, the wording of which should be consulted and agreed beforehand with Veitch and his lawyer.

“Consider” is a key word in that.

Considering can take time.

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