Culture builder – a bouquet for Police Commissioner Mike Bush

Mike Bush Police Commissioner

Source: YouTube

Mike Bush Police Commissioner

by Julie Haggie
Chief Executive Officer
Transparency International New Zealand

In April Police Commissioner Mike Bush ends his six-year appointment as chief constable of New Zealand and chief executive of the New Zealand Police Force.

Extraordinary events and bad behaviour test community safety, values and beliefs. High quality responses from public sector leaders and their agencies to these tests, generate deep public trust.

Commissioner Mike Bush deserves considerable praise for his skilled and ethical stewardship as a public service leader. He led the police through traumatic events such as the terror attack targeting the Muslim community in Christchurch and the Whakaari eruption tragedy. He led transformation practices for response to crime and to internal reform (including cultural change) within the police force.

One of his recent innovations to reduce criminal offending included a shift in focus from understanding drivers of crime to understanding the drivers of ‘crime demand’. Commissioner Bush set up a range of programmes to better understand the way mental health, organised crime and youth re-offending contributed as factors leading to crime. Major challenges remain, not least the prevalence of family violence and organised crime here. By focussing on cause as well as effect, the Police are developing programmes that reduce the numbers in prison while also improving outcomes.

Highlights from some of Commissioner Mike Bush’s public statements

In his response to the report ‘A Decade of Change’ that followed on from the Bazley report in 2007, Commissioner Bush noted:

A far-reaching programme was launched that touched almost every aspect of policing – from policy and training through to performance management and leadership; as well as practice changes that would better serve victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault who turn to Police today can expect to deal with staff who uphold our values of empathy, professionalism, and respect. The changes we have made as an organisation are enduring.

Under his watch, New Zealand Police has made efforts to address diversity, including in its recruitment intake, resulting in a steady increase in the number of Maori, Pacific and Asian people in the Police workforce. The gender balance has also shifted over time, now at 22% women overall, and 34% of recruits. In the Commissioner’s view diversity is vital:

As an organisation, we look to encourage staff to ‘use who they are’ not ‘lose who you are’ when becoming a police officer. We are a diverse organisation and I am proud of the work we’ve done over recent years to build relationships with the LGBTIQ+ community. (Commissioner’s blog)

Recently Commissioner Bush spoke at a packed Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ)’s ‘Public Sector Leaders Integrity Forum’. These peer-led, shared learning forums focus on senior leadership of the public services . They are co-hosted by TINZ and the Office of the Auditor General. He spoke about the importance of transparency to maintain trust and the importance of empathy.

His message on empathy is reflected in his words in an Ethical Leadership discussion publication:

Empathy is deeper, and more relevant, than respect. Empathy is not judging, and it is being able to understand somebody else’s situation and supporting that situation. (Ethical Leadership: Opportunities and Challenges for Aotearoa New Zealand..)

To round off, here is a quote from a speech he gave at the 12th annual Diversity Awards in 2016, about the role of the Police:

The point I want to make is that the police have a huge role to play in community harmony, people feeling safe. Something came out of the Boston police a few days ago, where they said they want to move from being warriors to being guardians. It does worry me that police forces have seen themselves as warriors. Great that they want to move to guardians, but I’d like to think we moved from that midst in the 1800s when we moved to being a police service. We align ourselves to Sir Robert Peel way back then who said the police are the community and the community are the police. We are here to serve you, and we get our consent from you. It’s not from the Queen, not from the governor general, not from the Prime Minister not from the Minister of Police. We police with your consent. (Building Trust and Confidence through Culture Change, 12thAnnual NZ Diversity Forum, 1.9.16.)

The global body Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, includes measures of police corruption. While our police force has some work to do around conduct, no country in the world comes close to the integrity of New Zealand’s police force.

TINZ thanks Commissioner Mike Bush for his six years of exemplary service.

On 8 March,  as this article was going to press, Commissioner Bush,announced the creation of a dedicated anti-corruption unit address growing organised crime and internal police corruption.

Quotes from Mike Bush’s speeches, blogs and public statements are included with permission of his office.

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