Police hit back at party actions flak
Out-of-control parties have to be broken up by force, under-fire police say.
Their tactics at parties have come under scrutiny after allegations of aggressive behaviour at several events.
Riot police dispersed about 200 people at an 18th birthday party on the Kapiti Coast last month, with some partygoers alleging police "blew the situation out of proportion" by using batons and marching people through the streets.
In Christchurch, police were accused of "animalistic" behaviour after shutting down a Woolston nightclub, and their actions at a house party in Templeton are being investigated by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.
A Canterbury University student, who was at a party, said she was concerned at officers' attitudes. "They came in and started pushing everyone out. They were provoking violence in teenagers who weren't violent."
The student, who did not want to be named, said guests were forced to line up and walk three blocks from the house, behaviour she believed would cause some to have a negative reaction to police next time they saw them. "I understand it's their job, and they do a good one, but they were really forceful when they didn't need to be."
Christchurch's Inspector Alan Weston said police closed a party only if they received complaints from the area, and treated each situation on its merits. However, they often had no choice but to use force.
"When you ask someone to do something in the light of day, it's different than at 2.30am when everyone's been drinking. If people are going to stand around in the road, there has to be an expectation we'll act to prevent disorder."
Police Association president Greg O'Connor said complaints of police aggression were overblown. "Often officers, when they read this stuff, roll their eyes, because it's normally middle-class kids who, for the first time in their lives, are being told not to do something."
Although some partygoers might not have been causing problems, he said, their presence contributed to the issues facing police, and they needed to be moved. "They think that because they didn't throw a bottle, or weren't kicking a car, they're allowed to stand there. What they don't realise is that the ones who are doing damage are using them as shields."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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