Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable

On October 15 2007, the New Zealand Police conducted a series of "anti-terrorist raids" around the country. In the Bay of Plenty town of Ruatoki they terrorised the community, with armed police conducting searches and searching every vehicle going in and out. Effectively, they acted like an army of occupation invading a hostile area. Now, six years on, the Independent police Conduct Authority has found that their actions were "unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable":

Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair Judge Sir David Carruthers said today that the decision by the then Commissioner of Police to undertake the operation in Ruatoki Valley and elsewhere on 15 October 2007 was reasonable and justified.

“However, the road blocks established by Police at Ruatoki and Taneatua were unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable. While Police were warranted in taking steps to address possible risk to public safety there was no justification for believing there was a general threat to the people of Ruatoki.

“Police had no legal basis for stopping and searching vehicles or photographing drivers or passengers,” he said.

In addition police unlawfully detained and searched other residents at properties where they were executing search warrants.

All of this raises the question of whether police will personally apologise to and compensate those whose rights they systematically violated, and whether the officers responsible will be disciplined or sacked. Sadly, the police seem to be in their usual mode of denying they did anything wrong, so that seems unlikely. Their refusal to do so can only continue to undermine the reputation of the police as an institution, and the willingness of the public to cooperate with them - just as it continues to do so over Arthur Allen Thomas.

I'm also left with a question: the IPCA has found that police illegally photographed people at roadblocks (something the police are in denial over). Has that illegally gathered information been destroyed, or has it been databased somewhere, allowing the police to continue to benefit from the fruits of their crime?

(The full report is here [PDF])