Marae angry at cops waking kids

CATHERINE GROENESTEIN
Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014

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Maori elders have filed a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority over the way in which two Stratford officers entered the Stratford marae around 2am on Saturday and woke 25 children sleeping there.

The police were looking for a suspect after a 61-year-old man was assaulted earlier in the same part of Stratford. The suspect was not found.

The children, aged from 4 to 17, were shaken and upset at the aggressive, rude treatment they received from the two officers, Whakaahurangi marae spokeswoman Lovey Read said.

Police said yesterday they were "following up" on concerns raised.

"We are not saying the police should not have done their job, we are saying the process they went through was wrong, how they did it," Read said.

"These kids were made to get up out of bed at 2.30am. They were lined up in the wharenui in their pyjamas and made to show their hands to the police to see if they had blood on their hands, so to speak, then some were photographed."

"They (the police) know that there's a protocol when you come onto a marae. They know how to dial us when they want someone for a powhiri, so why didn't they ring a kaumatua to come down and make things a lot easier," she said.

To address the damage that the incident has done to the marae whanau's relationship with the police, some restorative process needed to happen, she said.

As a group they wanted the issue resolved peacefully. It could easily get out of control and cause real division, and this was not what they wanted.

"Over the years a few of the police have made an effort to forge a relationship with the marae, but some kaumatua feel this has now been severed," she said. "One of the things we try to teach these kids is that the police are here to help us, not to pick on us."

The children are taking part in a youth programme at the marae over the school holidays.

Mentor and tutor Maioha Tokotaua said he had just got to bed when the officers arrived.

"The female officer said to me the man was hit pretty hard so more than likely there would be a mark of some sort on the hands of the attacker," he said.

The police asked him to go and wake the children so they could inspect their hands, which he did.

Although he asked them to wait outside while he was waking the children, the police made their own way into the dining room and began to interrogate the children assembled there.

One of the boys, aged 16, has a medical condition which causes his hands to shake, and he was targeted by one officer who mistook the tremor for a sign of guilt and started questioning him in a way that upset the other children.

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The two police officers then went into the wharenui to check that all the children had been woken, walking in uninvited and without removing their shoes, both serious breaches of tikanga.

After that one pulled out his phone and began taking photographs of the children. At this point, Maioha said he told the officers to leave and eventually they did.

Read said they went to the Stratford police station on Monday with two kaumatua to discuss the event but were told that nobody senior enough to take their complaint was available and to contact New Plymouth police. The New Plymouth police advised them to lay a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, via forms on the authority's website.

Senior media adviser for the New Zealand Police, Mere Wilson Tuala-Fata last night said police were making attempts to follow up with whanau from the marae to address any concerns that may have arisen during their initial inquiries into the assault, said.

She confirmed the incident arose in the early hours of Saturday, when police were attending to an elderly victim who had been attacked from behind while walking along Celia St. The victim required stitches above one eye, inside his mouth and his dentures to be repaired, she said.

"Police spoke to an adult staying at the marae, explained why they were there and whether they could speak to the young people who were also staying at the marae."

- Taranaki Daily News

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