A guest post by David Garrett:
Readers will recall that during the level 4 lockdown, it was reported that Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha was in regular contact with the president of the Waikato Mongrel Mob (Mob), one Sonny Fatupaito aka Fatu, and that Fatu had, with Haumaha’s assistance, become an “essential worker”, and was thus able to move around freely while almost everyone else was confined to their homes other than to go and buy food. The police denied, and continue to deny, that Haumaha had assisted the gang thug to become an essential worker, but did not deny they had been in contact. I decided to ask, pursuant to the OIA, a number of questions regarding that interaction. The formal response to my questions is here.
To summarize the response, Haumaha met the gang thug Fatu – a convicted killer – on at least three occasions as part of “their participation in a series of hui”. The purpose of these hui is said to have been “to bring people together” to ensure that “the government’s Covid messaging was reaching communities in order to keep them and their whanau safe” [emphasis added]. In other words, the Mongrel Mob and other gangs were given special treatment allegedly because if the police did not do so, gang women and children – said to be an “at risk population group” – might not be part of Ardern’s “team of five million”, and otherwise be “unsafe”.
I note in passing that the major reason gang associated women and children are “unsafe” is because of their close association with gangs; part of the Mob code is to regard women as third class citizens – or “bitches” in gang parlance – to be “disciplined” at will. Many Mob members – such as the killer of Christchurch prostitute Mallory Manning – get their patches as a result of the rape, and worse, of women.
Is treating gang members as “stakeholders” and holding hui with them a sensible and rational strategy to try and improve the safety of the misguided women and innocent children who form their “whanau”? I don’t think so. The Mongrel Mob and other gangs are criminal organizations (see below for the police comment on that) and ought to be treated as such at all times, and for all purposes. The only involvement the police should have with them is to harass and arrest patched members whenever possible, and do everything they can to help women and their children move out of that benighted lifestyle.
The police deny that Haumaha assisted Fatu to become an essential worker, and make the point they have made elsewhere that a decision in that regard was not for them to make. That may be literally true, but if Fatu had a brain – and clearly no one gets to be president of the Mob if he is stupid – he would naturally make much of the fact to whoever was responsible that he – Fatu – had taken part in several hui with Hamaha. In other words, he was a recognized “stakeholder” to use current parlance.
In their response, the police do admit that:
“Discussion within the hui did address the existence of general advice on the status of essential workers that was posted on the Covid-19 website…”
In other words, to mangle an old metaphor, the police led Fatu to the source of water, but left it up to him to work out how to drink from it. Again, Fatu would have to have been stupid not to make much of his positive contacts with Haumaha and the police generally in his apparently successful quest to become an essential worker with far greater freedom of movement than the rest of us.
My final question was a very simple and straightforward one, inviting a simple yes or no answer. That question was: “Is it still the position of the New Zealand Police that the Mongrel Mob is wholly or in part a criminal organization?” I deliberately made the question somewhat loose by including the phrase “wholly or in part” so as to avoid obfuscation about what purposes the Mob may have or serve other than criminal activities.
Rather than the simple answer “yes”, I got a long rambling disquisition on the Prohibition of Gang Insignia Act, the gist of which is as follows:
- Section 4 (a) of the said Act includes a list of 34 named gangs, one of which is the Mongrel Mob;
- Section 5 (2) of the Act requires that, to be identified as a “gang” under the Act, the Minister of Police [note NOT the Commissioner of Police] must be satisfied that the organization association or group concerned has the following characteristics:
- A common name or common identifying signs, symbols or representations, and
- Its members, associates, or supporters individually or collectively promote, encourage, or engage in criminal activity.
I find the above response to be distinctly odd. In addition to not being responsive to my question – which surely invites a clear and unambiguous answer of “Yes”, given the framing of the question and the above extracts from the Act – the answer can be interpreted in at least two ways. One of those may be “Well, the Minister may regard the Mob as a criminal organization, but we, the Police, may not necessarily agree”. If the intention is not to obfuscate and blur how the Police regard the Mob and other gangs, why not simply answer the question I asked? I intend to follow up asking just that question.
On 10 June the Mongrel Mob took over a street in Hamilton for the purposes of holding a tangi for a deceased gang thug. Stuff reports that there were cars parked four deep on both sides of the street in question, that “hundreds” of gang members were milling about, and that residents were terrified by their presence and actions. The tangi apparently went on for three days, including loud music until the early hours of mornings.
Most disturbingly for me according to Stuff:
“Multiple police cars were seen in surrounding areas as gang members loitered in the streets.”
In other words the Police stood by for three days while behavior continued which would certainly have got any group of ordinary citizens arrested promptly. It is surely significant that Fatu was reportedly among the gang members present during this clearly unlawful prolonged gathering.
In my view, what happened in Moeroa street Hamilton is a direct result – or at least a consequence – of Haumaha granting Fatu some form of status by treating him as a stakeholder two months before. Did Haumaha, either directly or indirectly, tell the Waikato police to “monitor” the tangi, but take no other action? Did Fatu call his mate Haumaha to get some advice on how to avoid police action? Who knows? I have made a formal complaint about the inaction of the Waikato police in this regard, so the answer to that might – eventually, once they have followed their usual obfuscatory delaying tactics – reveal why they did nothing in the face of blatant illegality.
What do we make of all of this? In my view the only conclusion can be that rather than harass them at every turn, using the numerous laws already at their disposal, the police have chosen – perhaps reluctantly – to accept the gangs as a reality, and to deal with their leaders if not as equals, at least as stakeholders with whom they are willing to engage, and who are entitled, at the very least, to have a blind eye turned to some of their illegal activities.
In my view this is emphatically not the correct approach to the gang problem, and neither is it a necessity. Some police commanders in some districts have shown they have balls, and instructed their officers to “turn over” gang members wherever they find them. There is some evidence that such an approach at the very least reduces the impact of these criminals on ordinary citizens. But that is a topic for another day.