Accused's mother makes plea
The mother of a man accused of a vicious attack on a Kawhia policeman has made a plea for unity in the coastal Waikato settlement.
"Kawhia, it is not time to divide," Lisa Panapa said at a town meeting last night, before offering her prayers and thoughts to the injured officer.
About 200 worried residents gathered at the community hall to discuss the violent attack on community constable Perry Griffin.
The town has been on tenterhooks since Friday evening, when Mr 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 Mr Griffin before firefighters and bystanders intervened.
Members of Maikuku's family and others have protested the arrest - claiming Mr Griffin used excessive force against the teen - and released images to the Waikato Times they claimed disputed the police version of events.
Earlier yesterday, Waikato police 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 Mr 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, 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," Mr Williams said.
Support for Mr Griffin was obvious, with attendees describing him as a good community member, and hoping for his speedy return to work.
Mr Griffin has been on leave since Friday.
Lisa Panapa - a 16-year resident of Kawhia - told the crowd she was "not here to defend or justify the events that what took place here in our beautiful town", but to put her family's side of the story.
She said she had a relationship with both Mr Griffin and his wife Tracey and said her prayers and thoughts are with them.
However, she said there was also a problem with youth in the town whom, she said, felt undervalued in their community.
Otorohanga dog control officer Jim Clarke said he was angry at what happened to Mr 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."
He said Mr Griffin had made a big difference in the town and the incident had caused division.
"He made this town so much better to live it's just not funny.
"The burglaries have dropped, the young people are more respectful, he feeds half the town, he comes back from fishing and stops at the marae and smokes up sharks and what to take to the Maori people."
Residents also said action needed to be taken to address drug and alcohol abuse in the town.
"We have got to take the blinkers off. It is us who is letting it happen to them."