Friday, February 06, 2004

Police told to keep mum about culture in the force

February 6, 2004
Police told to keep mum about culture in the force

Police have been told to close ranks to media asking questions following historical rape allegations by Rotorua woman Louise Nicholas. Staff had been told not to talk about the culture in the force in the past, and police national headquarters general manager of public affairs Michael Player had sent staff a memo saying they should not respond to any media requests for information about what their working lives were like in past decades. Mr Player told staff not to speak about any of the issues raised by Mrs Nicholas' case, but particularly police culture.

The memo follows intense media interest in former police culture after Ms Nicholas alleged she had been pack raped by three police officers and violated with a baton in Rotorua in 1986, when she was 18. The three men involved, assistant commissioner and Auckland police commander Clint Rickards, Tauranga city councillor Brad Shipton and Napier car dealer Bob Schollum have vigorously denied the allegations. Mr Rickards has been stood down on full pay while the claims are investigated. Southern police boss Superintendent Nick Perry is to head the criminal investigation. He will lead a team of 13 police staff and will answer to deputy commissioner of operations Steve Long. Prime Minister Helen Clark has also announced a commission of inquiry will look at the claims and will also consider wider issues within the police force.

Further claims of rape by police officers surfaced yesterday following publicity about the allegations. An Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Foundation counsellor said she knew of four cases in the past 18 months of rape complaints against police that did not make it to court. Former Police Association secretary Bob Moodie said he also knew of another case involving a female police officer who did not pursue her claim of rape by a male colleague. "She wouldn't complain and the reason she wouldn't is because she had no confidence her complaint would ever be investigated," he said. Dr Moodie believed police culture had improved in recent years. "The attitude of young males towards women was different. We were like young bulls in a paddock." Police Association president Greg O'Connor agreed the culture had changed and said there was greater accountability.


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