Police and Safety
New Zealand has a police force that is reliable, trustworthy and approachable. The New Zealand Police solve a comparatively high number of crimes.
Police in New Zealand must follow strict rules. They do not harass you in day-to-day life and do not generally carry personal firearms.
The New Zealand Police work to prevent crime and enforce the law by bringing lawbreakers to justice. They also handle traffic management, patrolling roads for traffic offences and issuing tickets and infringement notices for breaking the road rules.
Other responsibilities include
New Zealand Police see their work as very much a shared responsibility. Their slogan is ‘Safer Communities Together’, so they work closely with local communities and organisations.
Code of conduct and limits on police power
The New Zealand Police must keep to a code of conduct that demands their ethical and professional behaviour at all times. Here are some examples of misconduct and serious misconduct:
If you do happen to have an interaction with the police, it is important that you know your rights:
Entry powers: When the police can come into your home
The police don’t have any automatic right to come into your home. If you haven’t agreed to it, the police can only come inside if they’ve got a legal power to do this either because:
Note: If you’ve agreed to let the police come inside your home, you can change your mind at any time and the police then have to leave straightaway (unless something has given them a legal power to stay – for example, if they see a cannabis plant or other illegal drugs).
Search powers: When the police can search you, your home or your things
There are important restrictions on when the police can search your home, your car, your bags and other things, and you personally. They can only do it if they have your permission (“consent”) or if they have a specific legal power, either because they’ve got a warrant (written authority) from a judge or it’s a situation where an Act of Parliament gives them the power to do it without a warrant.
But even if you agree to the search, the search may still be illegal in some situations – which means that, for example, the police might not be able to use things they find as evidence against you if they bring criminal charges in court.
Being questioned by the police:
If you encounter the police when, for example, you’re just walking down the street, they’re allowed to ask you questions if they think you might have useful information about a crime they’re investigating.
But the police aren’t allowed to tell you, or suggest to you, that you have to answer the questions.
If the police are holding you (whether or not you’re under arrest) and they want to question you, they first have to tell you these basic rights:
Although it’s up to you, it’s almost always best not to say anything to the police before you’ve had the chance to talk to a lawyer.
Being arrested: your rights
If the police arrest you, or if you’re not under arrest but the police are holding you (for example, for a search for illegal drugs or weapons), you have these rights:
If the police charge you, you have the right to:
Police do not have the power to place surveillance or interception devices on private property (without the consent of the occupier), unless this is to obtain evidence in relation to an offence:
Police do not need a warrant to record (secretly or otherwise), if the police are:
Police require a warrant issued by a judge to carry out the following surveillance activities:
If criminal proceedings have commenced, raw surveillance data (including visual footage, audio recordings, etc) can be kept by the police until:
If no criminal proceedings are commenced, the police can keep raw surveillance data for:
DNA samples: When you have to give a sample
There are two situations when the police can legally make you give them a DNA sample:
- You’re under arrest or about to be charged – If the police have arrested you for a jail-able offence or they intend to charge you, they can legally require you to give a DNA sample
- The police have a court order – If the police suspect you of a jail-able offence and you’ve refused to give them a DNA sample after they asked you for one, the police can go to the District Court to ask a judge to order you to give a sample
Information the police hold about you and how to get access to it:
You’re entitled to have access to the information that any organisation has about you, whether it’s a private business or a government agency like the police. You can ask the police whether they have any information about you, and they have to then confirm whether or not they have any information about you. If they do, they have to provide you with access to it, with some exceptions.
Making a complaint:
If you believe the police have mistreated you or treated you unfairly, you can complain directly to the police, or you can complain to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, the Ombudsmen or a District Court. (The police, Ombudsmen or District Court must forward the complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority as soon as practicable).
You can complain verbally or in writing. If you do make a verbal complaint, you have to put it down in writing as soon as practicable.
Your complaint needs to say:
After the Independent Police Conduct Authority has received your complaint it will decide whether to investigate, and if so, what type of investigation to carry out.