Detectives are due to interview a woman who complained she was harassed and sexually abused by a senior Northland police officer.
It is understood the officer has been stood down from his duties pending the outcome of a criminal investigation, although that was not confirmed by police.
“Police have the same privacy obligations when it comes to employment as any other employer so we are unable to comment,” said Jenny Williams, police national employee relations manager.
“This is not outweighed by any public interest in this matter.”
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However several sources with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the officer had been suspended.
“He is stood down pending the outcome of the investigation,” one source said. “He is not happy.”
The officer faces allegations of abuse and misconduct from a woman who laid a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority earlier in April.
The authority will conduct its own independent investigation into the woman’s complaint, in additional to the criminal investigation by police.
The woman, who now lives in Australia, was due to be interviewed by New Zealand police on Saturday. She claims the officer took advantage and molested her after he had arrested her partner on domestic violence charges.
She said the officer started calling and visiting her house, and initially believed he was being “kind and thoughtful”.
The woman said she became uncomfortable when he brought her flowers and invited her on a date, and started calling her ‘Spice’.
She claims he went on to sexually assault her on multiple occasions; she later feared she was being stalked.
The alleged offending took place more than 10 years ago, when the officer in question was serving in another district.
The woman who laid the complaint said she believed more victims would come forward once the officer’s name was released.
“He was far too comfortable doing what he was doing, I could not have been the only one,” she said.
A senior sworn officer in Northland who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the allegations had left a cloud hanging over him and his colleagues.
“Every cop here is getting looked at like some sport of pervert,” he said. “This isn’t fair on any of us.”
The complaint bears similarities to the case of Louise Nicholas, who accused three high-ranking policemen of raping her in the 1980s.
Accused officers Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum and then-assistant commissioner Clint Rickards were acquitted of rape in 2006; it later emerged the jury had not been told Schollum and Shipton were already in prison for raping another woman.
Another high-ranking officer, detective inspector Mark Gutry, resigned from Counties Manukau police in 2014 after a prostitute accused him of raping her.
Gutry was not charged due to insufficient evidence, but later faced an internal employment investigation.
The investigation was abandoned when he quit his job.
A damning report from Dame Margaret Bazley in 2007 found that historical allegations of police rape were likely to be disbelieved and buried.
The Bazley report found there was a police culture of scepticism about sexual assault complainants in general, and recommended widespread attitude change.
A subsequent report in 2017 found police had made significant progress in improving their handling of sexual assault cases.