IPCA report on Operation 8

The report on the Operation 8 can be found here. Key conclusions:

  • The  Authority  has  found  that    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:

  1. The operation against those arrested was justified as they posed a real and serious threat
  2. The actual arrest and treatment of those arrested was done properly and lawfully
  3. 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.


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