- The Authority has found that Police were entitled, on the information they had, to view the threat posed by this group as real and potentially serious. The investigation into such activities by Police was reasonable and necessary.
- From a policing perspective the termination phase of Operation Eight was concluded safely. No shots were fired by Police or others, despite Police locating a number of firearms and weapons. All target individuals were located without incident and no members of the public were put at risk.
- The planning and preparation for the execution of search warrants on termination of Operation Eight was largely in accordance with applicable policy. It involved huge logistical challenges given that search warrants had to be executed simultaneously across the country. Those individuals who were considered by Police to pose the greatest risk were quickly and safely apprehended.
- In contrast, the planning and preparation for the establishment of the road blocks in Ruatoki and Taneatua was deficient. The Authority has found there was no lawful basis for those road blocks being established or maintained. There was no lawful power or justification for Police to detain, stop and search the vehicles, take details from or photograph the drivers or passengers.
- There was no assessment of the substantial and adverse impact of such road blocks on the local community. The road block at Ruatoki was intimidating to innocent members of that community, particularly in view of the use of armed Police officers in full operational uniform.
- The majority of complaints received by the Authority in relation to property searches were not from target individuals but rather from other occupants at these properties complaining about the way they were treated by Police. Some felt they were being treated as suspects. A number of occupants were informed by Police that they were being detained while a search of the property occurred, despite there being no lawful basis for such detention. Police had no legal basis for conducting personal searches of these occupants.
- The Authority has concluded that a number of aspects of the Police termination of Operation Eight were contrary to law and unreasonable. In a complex operation of the type that was undertaken here, there are always a number of important lessons to be learned about future Police policy and practices. The Police internal debrief following the termination of Operation Eight has already identified a number of those lessons and necessary changes to Police training, policy and operational instructions have been made. The Authority has made a number of other recommendations in light of its own findings. This includes the need to re-‐engage, and build bridges, with the Ruatoki community.
This looks a sensible and well balanced report. In short the conclusions are:
- The operation against those arrested was justified as they posed a real and serious threat
- The actual arrest and treatment of those arrested was done properly and lawfully
- The treatment of the wider community was over the top, insensitive and in some cases unlawful
The Ruatoki community do deserve an apology for their treatment by the Police. I think they have had one already, but will no doubt receive another. It is worth noting that of course we now have a different Police Commissioner and Minister of Police as from 2007.
But let’s not make martyrs out of those arrested. They were acting somewhere between very foolishly and with malignant intent, and the Police were right to bring their activities to an end. Their personal treatment was not generally criticized by the IPCA. They also bear some of the blame for provoking the Police action in Ruatoki. 17 firearms were found in three properties at Ruatoki, and 12 smashed Molotov cocktails at their training camp.
But as I have commented before, the Police response did seem over the top – and the IPCA has agreed. We expect better from our Police than we do of Tame Iti and Valerie Morse. They have a job ahead rebuilding confidence with Ruatoki.