The move has been criticised as an “unlawful checkpoint to interrogate pensioners” by one lawyer, while another said it was probably a breach of police powers.
A complaint has already been laid with the Independent Police Conduct Authority about the officers’ actions in Lower Hutt earlier this month, and at least one other is likely to be laid in coming days.
Police said on Wednesday evening that they had also notified the IPCA themselves.
It is significant that the Police have dobbed themselves into the IPCA. This suggests they may well now realise they overstepped the mark.
The Police are given powers for various reasons. Some powers can be used in any situation, while some can only be sued for the reason granted in statute.
The Police were given the power to require vehicles to stop and drivers identify themselves for the purposes of road safety. Not for the purposes of finding out if they were attending a legal meeting down the road.
“Information gathered through the checkpoint has enabled police to provide support and information to those people who we had reason to believe may be contemplating suicide.”
Again the power to pull over cars randomly is for road safety purposes. And it is not illegal to contemplate or commit suicide in New Zealand. It is only illegal to assist.
ACT leader David Seymour said people had the right to meet and discuss issues without “fear of police harassment”.
“The admission that the police used a drink-driving checkpoint to obtain the identities of people attending a meeting is deeply un-Kiwi,” he said.
“The police minister needs to explain why peaceful New Zealanders are being interrogated under false pretences.”
Now it has been referred to the IPCA, the Police Minister probably can’t comment. But once the IPCA reports, then the Police Minister should strongly advise the Police that this is a bad look.