Editorial: Shameful behaviour in Kawhia

Last updated 05:00 14/01/2013

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OPINION: The residents of Kawhia should be taking a long hard look at themselves. And some of them shouldn't like what they see.

On Friday evening, lone constable Perry Griffin went to arrest a 19-year-old. The teenager's father attacked the police officer. Mr Griffin used pepper spray to no avail, then his Taser, and was handcuffing one of the men when he was struck from behind.

Mr Griffin's Taser was thrown in water, and his pistol knocked away from him.

That, luckily - and putting the "to arm, or not to arm" debate to one side - was retrieved by an apparently sensible member of the public, otherwise the outcome could have been much worse.

Mr Griffin was then subjected to an attack police have described as "ferocious", with about five men kicking him while he curled into a ball on the ground.

With no police backup available, the attack stopped only when members of the Kawhia Volunteer Fire Brigade responded to an emergency call from Auckland.

As if that's not bad enough, the story gets worse.

About 80 people simply stood and watched. And did nothing.

You'd have to wonder, wouldn't you, whether they would have stood around calmly watching until the police officer was kicked and beaten to death. As it is, Mr Griffin has been badly bruised around his head and body, and temporarily left town with his family to recover.

Three people have appeared in court facing charges of aggravated assault and assault with intent to injure, but at least two more of the people involved in the attack have not been found.

Given the number of people apparently at the scene, it shouldn't be too difficult to find out who they are. Kawhia is a small coastal town; the kind of place where everybody knows everybody. That local knowledge was brought to bear when the firefighters arrived; Waikato's fire commander said the "tense and frightening situation" was brought under control because the people on both sides knew each other.

So, that knowledge could easily be used to bring those involved in this attack to account.

But it might not be so easy. One resident told media that "nobody is speaking" about the incident for fear of retribution.

So it's encouraging that concerned residents have called a public meeting to discuss the increasing drug use and violence they believe is seeping into their town; encouraging that some people are prepared to stand up and be counted.

You can like police or loathe them - although Mr Griffin has been described as "a good fella" - but any community that stands by and condones a five-on-one assault has some serious soul-searching to do.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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