9 Sep 2013

Police under-staffing not factor in officer's beating - PM

5:56 pm on 9 September 2013

The Prime Minister is disputing a claim that police under-resourcing played a part in the savage beating of an officer working alone.

Police say Sergeant Simon Tate, 42, had pulled a car over in Otara when he was attacked and was speaking to the passenger when he was attacked from behind on Saturday night. They say he was repeatedly kicked and punched in the head.

His injuries were initially described as life threatening and police say he faces months of recovery. He is now in a stable condition in hospital.

On Monday morning, Walter Tauatevalu, 36, appeared in Manukau District Court charged with attempted murder and two counts of assault against a woman.

Walter George Tauatevalu.

Walter Tauatevalu. Photo: NZ Police

As he was led away, messages of support were shouted to Mr Tauatevalu from the public gallery.

He was remanded in custody and will appear in the High Court in Auckland on 27 September.

Sergeant Tate's mother Sharon told Radio New Zealand that if he'd had another officer with him it could have made a difference but that staffing difficulties meant that could not happen.

Prime Minister John Key says he has not seen any advice to support that view. He says the Government has significantly boosted police numbers, and given them more resources and more technology including tasers.

"Generally speaking, we've added hundreds and hundreds of more police officers over the course of the last four or five years - 600 I think in total - and we've also given the police a lot more resources, to both support their activities when they're out and about and to ensure that there are more policing hours through the technology that we've got."

Police Association disagrees

The Police Association says Mr Tate may have had less severe injuries if he'd been with a partner.

President Greg O'Connor says in an ideal world police officers would work in pairs and he is sure there will be a relook at policies in relation to that.

He says the reality is there are situations that police officers get into where there is nothing that can be done.

However, he says if Mr Tate had a partner with him, the likelihood of an attack such as this happening would have been reduced considerably.

Police Minister Anne Tolley says the attack highlights the very real risk police face doing their job.

In a statement, the minister says her thoughts are with Mr Tate's family.

She says police will be undertaking a thorough investigation.

Waikato officer pinned against wall

Meanwhile, another officer has been injured on duty.

Waikato police say he was pinned against a wall after his pepper spray failed to subdue a man who reversed into him at a Ngaruawahia property where officers were looking for a stolen caravan .

He has injuries to an arm and leg that are thought to be minor.

The 40-year-old man who was driving the car has not been caught.