Kawhia cop bashing: Town divided

BELINDA FEEK AND MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 22:29 15/01/2013

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About 200 worried residents gathered at a Kawhia hall tonight to discuss the violent attack on community constable Perry Griffin.

The town has been on tenterhooks since Friday evening, when Griffin was allegedly set upon when he attempted to arrest 19-year-old Jackie Maikuku.

Police say Maikuku was pepper sprayed and tasered after resisting arrest, only to then attack Griffin before firefighters and bystanders intervened.

Members of Maikuku’s family and others have protested the arrest – claiming Griffin used excessive force against the teen – and released images they claimed disputed the police version of events.

Waikato police have cried foul over the release of the images, claiming such evidence should have been given to investigators, not the media.

Western Waikato Area Commander Inspector Paul Carpenter said both he and Griffin had viewed the images and the resulting publicity with concern.

However, he said both men believed the images were ‘‘consistent with statements from both the officer and witnesses’’.

He was unhappy the matter was being aired in public when a potential court case was pending.

Otorohanga District Council Mayor Dale Williams chaired the meeting tonight, which he described as ‘‘step one in a process’ to finding a solution to issues affecting the town.

‘‘What do we have to do to make Kawhia the place we want it to be and the place we know it is?’’ he asked.

Support for Griffin was obvious, with attendees describing him as a good community member,  and hoping for his speedy return to work.

Otorohanga dog control officer Jim Clarke said he was angry at what happened to Griffin.

‘‘Twenty-eight years ago I used to come here in shorts and jandals. Now I come in a stab vest and a police dog.’’

Griffin has made a big difference in the town and the incident has divided the town, he said.

‘‘He made this town so much better to live it’s just not funny."

Residents also said action needed to be taken to address drug and alcohol abuse is the town.

VIDEO SHOWS STANDOFF

Footage of the incident that led to the bashing of Griffin shows the man accused of assaulting him back away from the officer and refuse his orders to turn around.

The footage, provided to Fairfax Media today, shows the constable pointing a Taser at Maikuku.

The clip is a short slice of the event, with police unhappy at its release while the incident is before the courts.

The footage shows Maikuku with his arms out-stretched walking backwards away from Griffin, who follows closely, with the taser held at hip level calling for him to turn around.

Maikuku does not and demands that Griffin not touch him, the confrontation ends with Griffin suggesting he will "get the dogs" with Maikuku urging him to do so before the officer walks away.

The supplied video ends soon afterwards and does not include previously supplied images following the alleged attack on Griffin in which he is shown holding a pistol.

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Inspector Carpenter said both he and the injured officer viewed the images and commentary around them with some concern.

"It is well known that when a matter is before the courts police are limited in what they can say in the public domain.

"What I can say however is that having spoken to the officer again today we believe the images, which we must point out are a very selective slice of a prolonged stand-off and attack are consistent with statements from both the officer and witnesses."

''It is always disappointing in such situations when persons choose to litigate issues before the courts in the public domain as has occurred today. At this point I would like to reiterate our request that anyone with still or video footage contact police so our investigation team can examine it.''

Maikuku was wanted on charges of driving while disqualified, breaching supervision, reckless driving, failing to stop, failure to answer court bail, and breach of community work.

Griffin is understood to have been fishing, and went home to change into his uniform before returning to arrest Maikuku.

CLAIM OF EXCESSIVE FORCE

Carpenter said Griffin informed police communications and the Kawhia Volunteer Fire Brigade, and contacted Maikuku's father to go to the scene to help with the arrest.

A witness, who is a relative of Maikuku, said volunteer firefighters were told to keep 50 metres back as Mr Griffin attempted to arrest Maikuku.

But one image also appears to show a fire service officer standing close behind the constable in the moments before the attack, and as Griffin appears to reach for his pistol.

The weapon was lost in the ensuing assault, and was later handed in to the fire service by a member of the public.

The relative also claimed Griffin, having already told Maikuku he was under arrest, emptied two canisters of pepper spray into his face, unprovoked.

He said the constable's actions left the almost 50 witnesses confused as to why Maikuku had been sprayed for what appeared to be no reason.

The relative said once Maikuku regained his sight he got up and chased Griffin, before allegedly tackling and assaulting him.

It was at that point Maikuku was tasered and Griffin was then attacked from behind.

Fairfax Media has been told the officer had asked nearby fishermen for help in arresting Maikuku, but they indicated they did not think Maikuku was a threat.

At one stage during the incident the witness claimed Griffin also allegedly drew his pistol and pointed it at Maikuku.

Carpenter said earlier today the first still  image showed "a large man advancing on the officer with arms widespread with a Taser presented, a commonly deployed tactical option with the image appearing to be taken prior to O/C spray being used."

"We have previously stated we understand the officer's Police issue Glock pistol was dislodged and returned to the officer when he had retreated to the safety of the local fire crew. We believe this image is of the instance when the pistol was handed back to our injured officer while they were retreating from the threat."

Carpenter yesterday told Fairfax Media he understood Griffin was off-duty during the afternoon before to the assault, but could not confirm whether he had been fishing.

He also could not say whether the Fire Service was called as back-up before or after Mr Griffin attempted to arrest Maikuku.

- Waikato Times

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