The Top Cop Statement Was A Step Too Far

There has been a about the false Clarke Gayford rumours. But there has been limited debate about the decision that led the media to investigate and reject the rumours.In an unprecedented step last week, Police Commissioner Mike Bush stepped into the fray, telling the public that the rumours his staff were investigating Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s partner were not true.

“While in general we do not respond to enquiries which seek to confirm if individuals are under police investigation, on this occasion we can say that Mr Gayford is not and has not been the subject of any police inquiry, nor has he been charged in relation to any matter.”

Soon afterwards, Linda Clark, from the law firm engaged by Gayford, Kensington Swan, issued a statement saying that the allegations against him were “untrue and defamatory” and warning the media off publishing them. Clark is a former political editor of TVNZ and host of RNZ National’s Nine to Noon programme. She is also an occasional media commentator on politics. I can see that false rumours would have been very annoying and distracting for the government.

I am not sure whether the gossip at the water coolers and smoko rooms of the nation, as some in the media have suggestedsay?]]]

Commissioner Mike Bush

But media people love to gossip and it might have been sensible to address the rumours directly. Commissioner Bush’s statement indicated the rumours were false, but did not actually indicate what they were about. This in effect invited people to guess. In my opinion the statement from such a high placed public servant was risky.Has there been any transparency about how Bush came to take this extraordinary step? Maybe I have missed it.

If there had been a complaint, Would it have been impossible for police track down the gossipers. The police were obviously mentioned in the gossip so they might have deemed it appropriate for them to make a statement.

But by involving the commissioner – someone with a direct relationship with our political leaders – we seem to have taken a step too far.Maybe it was an extraordinary situation, but the statement from Bush makes it even more extraordinary.

Surely it would have been better to use one of the numerous assistant commissioners to make a statement.

Or maybe, to keep things even more simple, underlings from the public relations department/. Using the Police Commissioner to say “there is no story” looks like two bodies of state are acting in tandem.

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