Investigation after police recruit was found to be living with Mongrel Mob gangster

A police recruit was fired, days before graduation, after she was found to be living with a member of the Mongrel Mob.

The relationship was not picked up by police vetting procedures and only discovered days before the woman was due to graduate from the Royal New Zealand Police College, earlier this year.

It’s understood the pair were living together in the upper North Island.

Police deputy chief executive Kaye Ryan refused to give specific details about the recruit for privacy reasons but said there was no evidence the gang had “attempted to deliberately infiltrate police” through the rookie.

Police can confirm a recruit’s employment was terminated this year after an undisclosed conflict of interest relating to a personal relationship was revealed,” she said. “An investigation determined that whilst at Police College, the recruit did not access any Police databases inappropriately.”

It comes after a Stuff investigation revealed at least 10 of 100 police recruits who trained at the college from June to September 2018 were investigated either criminally or under the code of conduct.

Both Labour and NZ First promised a recruitment drive when campaigning for the 2017 general election. On taking office, the Government pledged $300m for 1800 new cops.

But recruitment was frozen in June after a surge in applications during the nationwide lockdown implement to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Last year, senior police officers warned deported Australian gang members will attempt to corrupt officers in New Zealand.

Detective Sergeant Ray Sunkel, head of the police motorcycle gang unit, told the Police Association’s annual conference: “They are out there cop-shopping, looking at cops to corrupt…one of the guys tried to corrupt me, had a proper run for me to get me on the books. He admitted he tried to corrupt me.”

And in November, Vili Mahe Taukolo was jailed for two years and two months for accessing the police’s National Intelligence Application and then leaking the information to gangs. This year police announced the establishment of an anti-corruption unit, National Integrity Unit (NIU).

Chris Cahill, president of the Police Association, said the volume of new recruits meant that vetting through face-to-face interviews with referees didn’t happen as frequently.

“I would expect those sorts of relationships to be investigated prior to people beng recruited and coming to the college,” he said. “And if they aren’t, then it is unfair on both the person being recruited and police if they come to light later.

“While [interviews] are time-consuming and resource intensive, it does have the advantage of ensuring any issues are explored further…We are aware of cases where recruits, and even sworn officers, have come under unfair allegations that if the full circumstances had been known and investigated, it would have stopped those accusations being made in the first place.”

The association supported the establishment of the integrity unit, Cahill said. The biggest corruption risk for police was financial reward, as Cahill was aware “many officers are strained financially”.

“The second is when they’ve been compromised in some way: an associate may have got a compromising photo, maybe an officer caught off duty smoking cannabis, and then that’s used as blackmail against them.”

Kaye Ryan wouldn’t say if the integrity unit was involved in the recruit’s case. She said all recruits go through vetting and a formal interview process to determine their suitability for the role. She did not explain how the relationship slipped through the cracks.

“Police also have a robust conflict of interest process, and all actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest should be declared. In line with the organisation’s core values of professionalism and integrity, Police staff are expected to maintain high standards of behaviour at all times.

“Police acknowledge that as organised criminal groups attempt to grow and proliferate, it is important we remain vigilant against attempts to infiltrate, and have measures in place to protect our staff as much as possible.”

New Zealand - BNN.