Police inspector drove group over Auckland border for tangi breaching COVID-19 order - IPCA

The inspector also tried to get another group across the COVID border four days later.
The inspector also tried to get another group across the COVID border four days later. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

A police inspector overstepped his role when he took a group of people across the Auckland Covid-19 border in a work vehicle to attend a tangi.

In a recently released report, the Independent Police Conduct Authority found the inspector personally breached the Covid-19 Health Order and in turn, breached the Police Code of Conduct.

In its findings, the IPCA said the incident took place on 5 September 2021 while Auckland was under Alert Level 4 because of community transmission of the Delta variant.

The rest of the country was at Alert Level 3.

The IPCA said at the time the inspector was the Māori responsiveness manager and thought it was part of his role to uphold - what he saw - as Crown obligations to the Māori community.

But in doing so, Judge Kenneth Johnston KC said he had "overstepped his role and gone beyond his authority. His actions did not uphold the health order and they were also not within the boundaries of the law and police discretion".

"Effectively, he disregarded the law."

The inspector was also found to have tried to get another group across the lockdown border four days later.

The IPCA said the District Commander should have fully investigated the inspector's actions and "advised the inspector of the extent of his role and discretion in such circumstances".

It also found that although the inspector was trying to uphold police values, he did not make sure his actions were lawful.

Deputy Commissioner Chris de Wattignar said it acknowledged the IPCA's findings.

De Wattignar said the inspector had no personal gain from his actions and did what he did out of empathy for a grieving whānau.

"Police dealt with millions of vehicle movements, along with thousands of people, successfully, during the period the Auckland border checkpoints were in operation. It was a demanding and challenging period for police staff who were called upon to make tough decisions every day.

"We acknowledge the officer did not make the right decision on this occasion, but this should be viewed in light of the hundreds of police officers who worked hard to ensure compliance with the health order in place at the time."

However, de Wattignar said it was not for police to use their own discretion in such a situation.

"Police self-referred these matters to the Independent Police Conduct Authority and began an employment investigation.

"A criminal investigation was carried out by police and while we found that the officer acted in contravention of the Act, it was deemed not in the public interest to prosecute."

The inspector resigned during the process of the employment investigation, he said.