Kawhia backs beaten constable

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013
WORRIED RESIDENTS: Kawhia locals Karl-Heinz Koehler, left, and Leigh Baillie don’t want to lose their community constable.
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ
WORRIED RESIDENTS: Kawhia locals Karl-Heinz Koehler, left, and Leigh Baillie don’t want to lose their community constable.
COMMUNITY OUTRAGE: Kawhia's wharf, where Constable Perry Griffin was attacked on Friday night.
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ
COMMUNITY OUTRAGE: Kawhia's wharf, where Constable Perry Griffin was attacked on Friday night.

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A public meeting will be held in the Waikato harbour town of Kawhia tomorrow night as concerned residents hit back at increasing drug use and violence they believe is "seeping into town".

The gathering was called after an emergency meeting of the town's community board yesterday in response to the "deplorable and cowardly attack" on Constable Perry Griffin on Kawhia wharf on Friday night.

Mr Griffin, the town's only police officer, was attacked by five people and lost his Taser and pistol as he attempted to arrest a 19-year-old man wanted by police.

The attack has sparked renewed calls for police to be armed, however Police Commissioner Peter Marshall last night called for "cool heads and calm minds", saying he did not support an escalation of firearm use by the police.

"The safety of police staff is our highest priority and our focus is on providing officers with the tools, training and support they need to do their job safely," he said.

Friday night's attack is the second on a Kawhia police officer in just over five years.

In 2007 former Kawhia Constable Craig Blakely, resigned his post after he suffered cuts to the face and head when he was stabbed by two men on New Year's morning.

Yesterday Kawhia resident Leigh Baillie said the town did not want the same thing happening to Mr Griffin.

"He has been the best cop we have had here for ages," she said.

The Kawhia policeman patrols a big area around Kawhia and Aotea Harbour that extends to Marokopa in the south.

Ms Baillie said one officer was not enough.

"He should not be here on his own," she said, "How can one person do that? That's crazy."

Kawhia has a resident population of 650 and the community constable is a big part of life but if he were to go, his loss would be felt across the town.

"The bigger picture for a little town like this is we lose Griff [Mr Griffin], we lose his wife - a teacher - and we lose his two kids," Ms Baillie said.

Members of the Kawhia Community Board yesterday expressed their shock and outrage.

"The Kawhia Community Board, on behalf of the Kawhia community, records its shock on the deplorable and cowardly attack on Constable Perry Griffin in Kawhia last Friday," chairman Hano Ormsby said.

"The board is totally behind Constable Griffin and his family and the New Zealand Police to maintain law and order in our town."

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A public meeting has been called to look for ways of dealing with a number of social issues - including drug use and violence - seeping into the town.

Police are still looking for two people believed to be involved in the attack and are asking for help from the public to identify a man, who was seen wearing a blue shirt, who ran across the road to knock the officer to the ground.

Mr Griffin is recovering with a sore hip, bruises and grazing to his face and arms but is keen to get back to work according to Mr Marshall.

"I have spoken with Constable Griffin this morning and in his words, he is ‘keen to get back onto the saddle of the horse as quickly as possible'."

A public meeting will be held in the Kawhia Community Centre on Tuesday, January 15, at 7pm.

- Waikato Times

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