22 May 2013

Raids report asks police to re-engage with Tuhoe

8:51 pm on 22 May 2013

Police are being urged to re-engage with Bay of Plenty iwi Tuhoe following a critical report into armed raids on tribal settlements in 2007.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority on Wednesday released a report which criticises police for illegally detaining and searching people and for setting up unlawful road blocks at Taneatua and Ruatoki.

The head of the watchdog, Judge Sir David Carruthers, says officers detained people on five properties and stopped cars at roadblocks on 15 October 2007 - and both actions were illegal.

He says all vehicles leaving Ruatoki were searched by members of the Armed Offenders Squad - not just those vehicles that police believed were carrying an offensive weapon.

Judge Carruthers says that approach affected people going to work, taking their children to school and going about their daily business. He says the stopping and searching added to people's fear and anxiety.

The IPCA has made several recommendations. Among them, it suggests that police take steps to build bridges with the Ruatoki community to increase trust and confidence in police.

Officers are also being asked to consider how children are treated when they carry out raids.

Tuhoe maintains that a marked kohanga reo bus carrying young children was boarded by the AOS, but IPCA says it has found no evidence to back up that claim.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government has not ruled out making an apology to Ngai Tuhoe over the raids.

However, a Tuhoe leader, Tamati Kruger, says the iwi has never asked for an apology. He says an apology is a peculiarly western tikanga which Tuhoe is trying to understand.

Mr Kruger says once the iwi understands what an apology does - and what effect it has - the tribe might warm up to it.

Mr Kruger is calling the IPCA inquiry fair and comprehensive and says the information has been honestly gathered. However the report fixes nothing for his tribe, he says, because the lives of some of his people have been damaged.

Mr Kruger says the iwi is happy to leave the issue regarding the kohanga reo bus - but it won't forget about it.

He says like all thrillers, there's always a mystery - and the mystery is whether the marked kohanga reo bus was boarded by armed police or not. Mr Kruger says that part of the report is inconclusive.

The IPCA report does find that police stopped and searched an unmarked kohanga reo bus which was carrying only two adults and a teenager.

IPCA recommendations

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has made seven recommendations for change following its investigation of the Urewera raids in 2007.

  • The IPCA orders police to re-engage with Tuhoe and build bridges with the Ruatoki community.
  • Police should amend the Planning and Command chapter of its manual to include provision for a log to be maintained of all decisions during the planning phase of major operations.
  • Police should start preparing impact assessments for all operations which could have a significant adverse effect on a community.
  • Armed Offenders Squad members should no longer wear balaclavas on their own - they should be worn with a ballistic helmet.
  • Policy changes recommended for the handling of road blocks and search warrants which involve children and vulnerable people.
  • Review and clarify policy and guidelines regarding the taking of photographs of people at road blocks or road closures.
  • Ensure that any amendments or clarification of policy are reflected in police training.