Pianist Investigation: The Case of Inaccurate Police Notes
Police Officers Criticized for Inaccurate Notes
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has expressed disapproval of the conduct of two police officers involved in the investigation of allegations against a piano instructor. These allegations, related to inappropriate behavior towards a young student, were taken very seriously. The complaint was filed by a former student who claimed that the instructor had behaved inappropriately towards her when she was just 14 years old.
Upon receiving the complaint, the police department decided to conduct a “prevention visit” to the instructor. This decision was supported by the complainant, who, despite the trauma, chose not to press charges against the instructor.
Inaccurate Notes and Memory Reliance
The IPCA, in its report, stated that the police officers involved did not take notes during their meetings with the instructor. They instead relied on their memories to record details after the meetings. This practice of not taking contemporaneous notes eventually led to a series of complications.
The notes, based on the officers’ memories, recorded the piano instructor admitting to possessing an “abnormal attraction to children” and his intention to seek counselling. However, when these notes were later used in the instructor’s job vetting process a month later, the instructor claimed that they were inaccurate.
IPCA’s Stance and Recommendation
The IPCA concluded that the notes taken by the officers were not substantiated. They declared that the notes should not have been used by the Police Vetting Service. The report emphasized the importance of taking contemporaneous notes during meetings, with IPCA Chair Kenneth Johnston KC labeling the officers’ approach as “poor practice”.
While the officers’ intentions to act in the best interest of the complainant and the community are not in question, the lack of proper note-taking and reliance on memory caused significant issues in the investigation and later proceedings.
Police Response and Lessons Learned
Superintendent Shanan Gray responded to the IPCA’s findings, stating that the original vetting request based on the unsubstantiated notes has been withdrawn and closed by the police. He expressed confidence in the professionalism of the officers and reiterated that their primary concern was community safety. Both officers continue to work with the New Zealand Police.
One of the key takeaways from this incident is the critical importance of accurate and timely note-taking during police investigations. This ensures the integrity of the process and helps avoid potential issues in the future. The incident serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of following correct procedures in investigations to maintain the credibility of the process and the trust of the community.
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