Police apologise for revealing shooting compo
Police have apologised to a mother for mistakenly revealing confidential details of a settlement deal made after her son was accidentally shot dead by an officer.
Ivoni Fuimaono says top officers "humiliated" her in front of the nation by revealing a secret $100,000 payment made shortly after the death of her son, Halatau Naitoko.
Details of the compensation deal were announced yesterday, with police saying the family would get a total of $225,000 including the $100,000 already paid to Fuimaono shortly after the 17-year-old's death in 2009.
Fuimaono had not told anyone about the initial payment - police made her sign documents preventing her from revealing it even to her relatives - and was caught by surprise when it was made public at a media conference by Assistant Commissioner Allan Boreham.
"As soon as they started talking I was going to get up and walk out," Fuimaono said. "I was humiliated."
The rest of the Naitoko family are now furious with Fuimaono for not telling them about the money. Fuimaono said it was still held in trust and she was yet to decide what to spend it on.
Police met with Fuimaono and her lawyer Colin Pidgeon this afternoon to apologise. The family was initially considering legal action but has decided to put that on hold.
The police said in a statement: "The issues have been discussed today with Mrs Fuimaono and her counsel and police has offered its apologies for yesterday's breakdown in communication."
However, Fuimaono said the apology doesn’t make up for what happened yesterday, when she says police made her feel like a liar.
"I have never felt so betrayed," she said.
"I played by the rules. I didn't tell anyone about that money. And then yesterday in front of the media they told everyone about it."
Fuimaono said she felt she kept her part of the deal – not to reveal her son’s killer’s name – but police had not kept theirs.
"Police have asked me to keep the identity of the shooter confidential. They told me not to reveal his name. So what if I came out and told everyone who the shooter is? How would they feel?"
Naitoko, a new father and courier driver, died after getting caught in the crossfire as police chased a drug-fuelled suspect down Auckland's northwestern motorway in January 2009.
The identity of the officer who shot Naitoko has never been revealed.
Fuimaono knows his name, but says police also made her sign documents promising not to reveal it. If she did, they said she could go to jail for three months.
"I have never told anyone who the shooter is. Not my parents. Even my own children don't even know who he is. I have to keep it away from my family," Fuimaono said.
"And now yesterday the cops went and broke it down like that. It is unfair. And it has been unfair from the start."
Pidgeon said his client had been placed in a very difficult position.
The announcement was only supposed to mention the $225,000 figure, not a breakdown of the other payments.
"Now members of Ivoni's family are attacking her. It's terrible."
He said the $100,000 payment was approved shortly after Naitoko's death, by Cabinet. It was never supposed to be made public.
A police spokesperson said earlier today the last thing police wanted to do was cause upset or cause embarrassment to Fuimaono.
The money was not intended as compensation, but to help the family after the loss of their son. It did not prevent the family taking further legal redress.
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report into Naitoko's death said events that led to the shooting could have been stopped much earlier if police had used better communication and tactical control.
The findings described a litany of errors, mainly involving police policy and command structures, but exonerated the officers who fired the shots that accidentally killed Naitoko.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Pals and playmates (pictures)
Reacting to a sudden cancellation
New Zealand's best deck built yesterday
Appreciating Tony Allen
The meaning of blogging