24 Aug 2019

Police 'can do better': review of prisoner custody after four escapes in a week

4:20 pm on 24 August 2019

Police can do better at transporting prisoners after four escaped in Levin recently, New Zealand's Police Association (NZPA) says.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced last night the need for a national review of the custody and transport of prisoners.

It followed the escapes of four prisoners this week.

Levi Parekuka was arrested yesterday morning but escaped custody in the afternoon while being held at the Rotorua Hospital.

On Wednesday, Wiremu Eparaima, Te Wera Hemara, and Emmanuel Witana escaped after overpowering two officers while being taken to a transport from Levin District Court.

Police admitted after that incident they had not followed best practice.

They said they managed tens of thousands of prisoner movements every year and generally these were completed without incident.

NZPA cice president Craig Tickelpenny, however, said every officers needed to be alert on the job at all times.

"Best practice wasn't followed. Complacency may have crept in, with people that are doing the same job over and over on a day-to-day basis.

"The numbers obviously didn't quite meet the recommended numbers of police per prisoners."

Police have yet to locate the men who escaped.

Meanwhile, National is welcoming the review.

Police spokesperson Brett Hudson said it was a timely review and a good step forward.