A piano teacher’s ordeal involving an unjust note in his police file, suggesting an “abnormal attraction to children,” has been scrutinized and condemned by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA). The investigation has revealed that the comments in question should never have been included in the teacher’s record.
The chain of events began in 2020 when a former student of the piano teacher lodged a complaint with the police, alleging inappropriate behavior that occurred between 1998 and 2007 when she was a child. Importantly, the teacher was neither charged nor convicted of any crime during this period.
The allegations raised by the student included claims that the teacher had frequently sat “very close” to her, demonstrated piano techniques by placing his hands on her, and hugged her on parting. She also asserted that he had asked her to play a song on her iPod and leaned his head against her chest, where her earbuds were attached.
Although police investigated the complaint and considered the possibility of other victims, they ultimately deemed that there was insufficient evidence to press charges, and the complainant did not wish to pursue the matter further. However, the police did conduct two “preventative visits” to the teacher’s residence during the course of the investigation.
Notes taken during these visits reflected the teacher’s cooperation and openness with the police, as well as his inability to recall the alleged behavior. In one officer’s notebook, it was mentioned that the teacher had “liked three girls in the past” and had contemplated seeking help but had never crossed any physical boundaries.
Several days after these visits, entries were made in the police database, including one stating that the teacher had expressed “sexual attraction to younger females.” However, the teacher disputed having made such a statement.
Approximately a month later, the teacher’s employer initiated a police vetting request. Such vetting reports encompass both “conviction and non-conviction information” and necessitate an assessment of the information’s relevance and substantiation.
The teacher received a letter detailing the contents of his file and promptly sought legal representation. Over the following 18 months, the vetting service produced five distinct versions of the proposed vetting release, prompting the teacher to lodge a complaint with the IPCA.
Judge Kenneth Johnston, who oversaw the investigation, acknowledged the vetting service’s role in providing risk information to agencies responsible for the safety of children. However, he concluded that the terms “abnormal attraction to children” and “sexual attraction” should not have been included in the vetting release. According to the IPCA, these comments were not sourced from contemporaneous notes and were unlikely to accurately represent the nature of the conversation or meet the substantiation threshold.
Judge Johnston also criticized the absence of note-taking during the discussion with the teacher as “poor practice” and recommended the amendment and release of the vetting report.
Responding to the IPCA’s findings, Superintendent Shanan Grey, the Waitematā district commander, disclosed that the vetting request that triggered the investigation had been withdrawn and closed by the police. While recognizing the lessons learned from the incident, Grey reaffirmed the police’s confidence in the professionalism and good faith of the officers involved, who always prioritized community safety when documenting the complaint’s outcome.
Both officers mentioned in the case continue to serve with the police, according to Grey.