The New Zealand Police has generally enjoyed a reputation for mild policing, but there have been significant cases when the use of force was criticised, such as during the 1981 Springbok tour. While the New Zealand Police is a government department with a minister responsible for it, the Commissioner and sworn members swear allegiance directly to the Sovereign and, by convention, have constabulary independence from the government of the day.
The New Zealand Police is perceived to have a very low level of institutional corruption.
The Armed Constabulary took part in military actions against Māori opponents Riwha Titokowaru in Taranaki and Te Kooti in the central North Island in the dying stages of the New Zealand Wars.
From the police force's beginnings in 1840 through the next forty years, policing arrangements varied around New Zealand.
The most significant change in the structure and arrangement for police came after the departure of Commissioner Compton under a cloud of government and public concern over his management of Police in 1955.
The appointment of a caretaker civilian leader of Police, especially titled "Controller General" to recognise his non-operational background, opened the windows on the organisation and allowed a period of positive and constructive development to take place.
In 1898 there was a very constructive Royal Commission of Enquiry into New Zealand Police.
The Royal Commission, which included the reforming Commissioner Tunbridge who had come from the Metropolitan Police in London, produced a far reaching report which laid the basis for positive reform of New Zealand Police for the next several decades.
The change in name was significant, and provincial policing arrangements were dis-established and their staff largely absorbed into the newly created New Zealand Police Force.At the same time, government took the important step to hive off the militia functions of the old Armed Constabulary, and form the genesis of today's New Zealand Defence Force, initially called in 1886 the New Zealand Permanent Militia.Just a decade later, policing in New Zealand was given a significant overhaul.Other overseas deployments for regional assistance and relief have been to Afghanistan as part of the reconstruction effort, the Kingdom of Tonga, Thailand for the tsunami disaster and Indonesia after terrorist bombings.New Zealand Police maintains an international policing support network in eight foreign capitals, and has about 80 staff deployed in differing international missions.The early Force was initially part police and part militia.At the outset, official establishment of sworn constables holding common law powers to arrest people was achieved by magistrates being given the power to swear them in via the Magistrates Ordinance of 1842.Today the Police are responsible for enforcing traffic law, while local councils enforce parking regulations.In 2010, after some calls to split traffic enforcement again from standard police duties, it was decided that it would remain part of their duties, partly due to the public having shown "enormous support" for it remaining this way.Up until that time, the Ministry of Transport and local councils had been responsible for traffic law enforcement.In 2001, the Police re-established a specialist road policing branch known as the Highway Patrol.