Marae speaks out about police waking children at 2am to investigate

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Maori elders have filed a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority over the way in which two Stratford officers entered the Stratford marae around 2am on Saturday and woke 25 children sleeping there.

The police were looking for a suspect after a 61-year-old man was assaulted earlier in the same part of Stratford. The suspect was not found.

The children, aged from 4 to 17, were shaken and upset at the aggressive, rude treatment they received from the two officers, Whakaahurangi marae spokeswoman Lovey Read said.

Police said yesterday they were “following up” on concerns raised.

“We are not saying the police should not have done their job, we are saying the process they went through was wrong, how they did it,” Read said.

“These kids were made to get up out of bed at 2.30am. They were lined up in the wharenui in their pyjamas and made to show their hands to the police to see if they had blood on their hands, so to speak, then some were photographed.”

“They (the police) know that there’s a protocol when you come onto a marae. They know how to dial us when they want someone for a powhiri, so why didn’t they ring a kaumatua to come down and make things a lot easier,” she said.

To address the damage that the incident has done to the marae whanau’s relationship with the police, some restorative process needed to happen, she said.

As a group they wanted the issue resolved peacefully. It could easily get out of control and cause real division, and this was not what they wanted.

“Over the years a few of the police have made an effort to forge a relationship with the marae, but some kaumatua feel this has now been severed,” she said. “One of the things we try to teach these kids is that the police are here to help us, not to pick on us.”

The children are taking part in a youth programme at the marae over the school holidays.

Mentor and tutor Maioha Tokotaua said he had just got to bed when the officers arrived.

“The female officer said to me the man was hit pretty hard so more than likely there would be a mark of some sort on the hands of the attacker,” he said.

The police asked him to go and wake the children so they could inspect their hands, which he did.

Although he asked them to wait outside while he was waking the children, the police made their own way into the dining room and began to interrogate the children assembled there.

One of the boys, aged 16, has a medical condition which causes his hands to shake, and he was targeted by one officer who mistook the tremor for a sign of guilt and started questioning him in a way that upset the other children.

The two police officers then went into the wharenui to check that all the children had been woken, walking in uninvited and without removing their shoes, both serious breaches of tikanga.

After that one pulled out his phone and began taking photographs of the children. At this point, Maioha said he told the officers to leave and eventually they did.

Read said they went to the Stratford police station on Monday with two kaumatua to discuss the event but were told that nobody senior enough to take their complaint was available and to contact New Plymouth police. The New Plymouth police advised them to lay a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, via forms on the authority’s website.

Senior media adviser for the New Zealand Police, Mere Wilson Tuala-Fata last night said police were making attempts to follow up with whanau from the marae to address any concerns that may have arisen during their initial inquiries into the assault, said.

She confirmed the incident arose in the early hours of Saturday, when police were attending to an elderly victim who had been attacked from behind while walking along Celia St. The victim required stitches above one eye, inside his mouth and his dentures to be repaired, she said.

“Police spoke to an adult staying at the marae, explained why they were there and whether they could speak to the young people who were also staying at the marae.”

– Taranaki Daily News

3 COMMENTS

  1. All power to the Daily News for publishing this story. Engari, given space and word restrictions newspapers are not always able provide all relevant detail for a story. The article mentions a suspect and, that the suspect was not found. No estimated age, gender, height, or size of the attacker is given. Perhaps that was known only to the victim and the Police. So, how was it deduced that the possible attacker was among a group of Maaori children aged 4-17? Pre-schoolers might be immediately discounted and so on. Police & disrespectful behaviour-perhaps a learned skill sourced from footage of Operation 8, uniform power, perhaps just ignorance. I know there are good cops. Some mature, some not. Kaumaatua make a good point though. Police Management seem content to forge relationships devoid of their own contribution to reciprocal considerations. My sympathies to that old man. But a solitary casaulty is not supposed to become multiple ones. Cops have the unenviable job of securing whomever began it all. When you do e hoa ma, that mongrel need face all harmed in the fallout.

  2. Ah not only were they disrespectful but can they just go in and do that. I think that’s unlawful anyway the conduct and I would be asking for your fellas rights. Unbelievable the ego and arrogance. More blame on maaori..how did they get proof that it was our tamariki..sad sad

  3. Unbelievable. The total lack of respect for not only our cultural principles but also of the efforts others (within the police force) have put into building a trusting and co-dependent relationship is mind boggling. To allow whatever sense of over-inflated self-importance these two police officers felt, to damage not only the relationship between the local law enforcers and the town people for which they have taken an oath to equally protect, but also the reputation of law enforcement itself is deplorable. The potential impacts of this incident alone will be far reaching. Think about it, our Marae, sacred to us, a place of security, sanctity and shelter, for these children has just been destroyed would you ever forget or forgive those who have taken something so precious to you and tarnished it (maybe in years to come with time under your belt, but certainly not while you are young, determined and ready to fight for your voice to be heard). And whats with taken photos of children without parental/guardian consent? In most places this would be construed as child pornography acts. Yes I understand that was not their purpose or intention, but thats beside the point. Treating someone as a criminal without grounds (guilty until proven innocent) is such an archaic ministration. These police officers have a duty of care to all citizens and should have understood that to anyone, anywhere, seeing police at 2am in the morning is beyond normality and as such is a scary and frightening thing. Its a pity for them, and mostly for the victim of the assault, that they wasted so much time on a frivolous act of intimidation instead of utilising the resources around them (did they think the Kaumatua would harbour such a person who would willingly bring an event like this into such disrepute) to find the real criminal. It seems I am afforded more respect and duty of care for my handling here in a foreign country (Australia) than do you receive at home.

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