29 Nov 2016

Protester complains to IPCA over 'threatening' phone call

7:37 am on 29 November 2016

A Horowhenua woman planning to attend a protest in Levin next week has complained to the police watchdog about what she says was an intimidating phone call from an officer.

Horowhenua District Council

Bernadette Casey planned to attend a protest in support of Horowhenua deputy mayor Ross Campbell. Photo: google maps

The protest, dubbed Don't Rumble Our Ross, is being organised against a push to strip the Horowhenua District Council deputy mayor of his title.

The mayor, Michael Feyen, and his 10 councillors were only sworn-in a month ago.

Now, nine of the councillors are agitating to remove Mr Feyen's ally, Ross Campbell, from the deputy mayoralty at a meeting next week, and a protest on the day is scheduled outside the council chambers in Levin.

Bernadette Casey indicated on the protest's Facebook page that she was planning to attend in support of Mr Ross, but was shocked to receive a phone call from police asking about it on Monday morning.

"I get a phone call from the police asking me if I was the organiser, asking if I knew the organiser of the protest - I don't know who organised it - and then asking if I was going to it. I said to the constable who rang me I didn't think it was any of his business."

The police approach served as a reminder of another recent high profile case, she said.

"It did sort of remind me of what's happened recently about the euthanasia group that was meeting and they set up the road block to get their details, and that's what first came to mind."

Ms Casey said she had complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) about the phone call, which she described as "threatening" and "heavy-handed."

"It really shook me. I felt quite intimidated by the call and I said 'Why are the police ringing me? Of all the people that are go along, why are the police ringing me?' and he said to me that the Horowhenua District Council want to know what is going on."

But the acting senior sergeant for Levin Police, Sam Gilpin, said the phone call was not out of the ordinary.

"With planned activities like this it's common for police to make contact with parties involved to identify their intentions and to obtain correct information to ensure that planned protests are carried out in a peaceful manner," he said.

Council contacted police about protest

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton confirmed it contacted police about the protest.

"Council has spoken with Levin Police regarding the planned protest, in efforts to ensure public safety and for the protest to be carried out peacefully and without incident. Police indicated they would contact protest organisers," he said.

Ross Campbell said the police action felt heavy handed.

"I'm a little bit shocked. I think our police have a lot more to do than to worry about protesters. I think protests are a good part of our democracy."

Another protester, Carolyn Leslie, said she called police in early November to alert them to the protest and was told there were no problems.

"I spoke to the community constable and he got in touch with his senior sergeant and they got back to me and said 'As long you don't block the footpath, or any driveways, and you were peaceful there was not a concern."

Ms Leslie said it was bizarre for a further phone call to be made by police to another protester.

Police have refused to answer further questions about their approach, or the complaint that's been laid.

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