Commander upholds police complaints
Marlborough area police commander Inspector Simon Feltham has upheld veteran protester John Minto's complaints against police over their actions at the Waihopai spy base protest in January.
Mr Minto said yesterday he had made several complaints about police in 30 years of protesting, but this was the first time one had ever been upheld, and two were upheld at once.
"I'm very surprised, it's good . . . It's a good result, I'm pleased with the outcome."
Mr Feltham said in his letter that police had breached policy by wearing Tasers at a protest and that they had not acted to the standard police should.
Mr Minto said the Independent Police Complaints Authority had initially taken the police's version to the letter and dismissed the complaint, while referring the Taser complaint to police for investigation.
"I was furious and wrote to them saying they hadn't talked to witnesses and were just taking the police's view. They then referred both complaints to police."
The letter from Mr Feltham to Mr Minto explained the police investigation into the protest at the Waihopai base on January 19 this year.
Mr Minto complained about two things: police officers at the protest breached policy by wearing Tasers; and that they acted unprofessionally in the way they dealt with a letter that the protest group was attempting to deliver to the base commander.
Mr Feltham said it was clear some police staff working at the protest were wearing Tasers and this was in breach of police policy.
"The staff with Tasers had been deployed on other duties earlier that day that required the use of Tasers and they had neglected to remove them before deploying to the protest. While the wearing was, in that sense, inadvertent, it should not have happened. This point has been reinforced with the staff involved, and the Police Operation Commander, to ensure that it does not happen again."
Mr Feltham said there were "differing versions" about the exact manner that the letter was dealt with after the protest group moved onto the grounds of the Waihopai Base in an effort to deliver a letter of protest to the base commander.
The group refused requests from police to leave the grounds and at the same time police staff refused to accept the letter on behalf of the base commander.
"l am satisfied that the actions of at least one police staff member fell short of the professional standards that NZ Police expect. For that reason, this complaint is upheld."
The manner in which protests at the Waihopai Base were policed had been reviewed in order to minimise future issues, he said. This approach included more dialogue with protest groups and leaders during such events.
"The benefits of this approach were seen at the recent protest action in late July, which passed without incident. This successful result was in part due to the protest group not attempting to make unauthorised access onto the Waihopai Base property."
Mr Feltham said yesterday he did not want to say much about the investigation. The police had learnt from it, and some changes had been made, so there were no problems at the protest in July.
- © Fairfax NZ News