Gisborne Police's response to family harm incidents inadequate - watchdog

Source: 1News

Gisborne Police's response to two family harm episodes have been found to have been inadequate after officers failed to collect and record critical information, leading to a serious assault, the police watchdog says.

Domestic violence (file).

The incidents involved a man and his long-term partner at a home in Gisborne on January 1 and 5, 2020.

On January 1, a woman called police to report her partner was in possession of weapons, was psychotic, and needed to be removed from the property.

However, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) found the emergency call takers had failed to correctly code and prioritise the woman’s call and did not record critical information. It meant the attending officers were unaware of the urgency of the situation and had insufficient information.

The woman called police again on January 5 to report her partner's behaviour, and requested officers to come out to the property as she was frightened, the IPCA report read. Officers attended the scene and detained the man. He was issued with a Police Safety Order, allowing police to hold him temporarily, before being taken to the police station.

An officer later returned to the home, where the woman reported being physically and verbally abused by the man. The IPCA found the officer had failed to understand the significance of her words or to carry out a more robust interview.

"Had he done so, he may have gathered information to charge her partner with a criminal offence and detain him in custody, rather than holding him temporarily under the Safety Order," the report read.

The woman's partner was released from the station one and a half hours later, after which he told officers the Safety Order "would not stop him".

Where to get help for domestic violence.

He then walked from the station to the woman’s home, where he broke in with a weapon and caused serious injury to the woman’s friend, who she had called for support.

"Police have a significant role in the prevention of and response to family harm. On this occasion the failure to collect, record and act on critical information meant the officers did not adequately respond and prevent harm being caused," IPCA chairperson Judge Colin Doherty said.

The IPCA also found the officers had failed to take steps to protect the woman after the man made the threat towards her when he left the police station.

Police on Thursday acknowledged the IPCA's findings.

"The staff that were involved have been debriefed and received coaching in regard to family harm policy and coding," Inspector Sam Aberahama said in a statement.

"We acknowledge we don’t always get it right. There are always lessons to be learnt and we are constantly improving and taking every opportunity to ensure these learnings are embedded so we are providing the best service possible for our communities."

He said family harm often involves "complex dynamic situations that can be really challenging for all parties involved".

"Everyone deserves to be and feel safe free from violence and Police work extremely hard alongside our partner agencies to help reduce the impacts of violence in our communities."