Anger after officers bitten

By Sam Hurley

Police allege two officers were bitten after an armed offenders squad search in Marewa on Friday. Photo/Warren Buckland
Police allege two officers were bitten after an armed offenders squad search in Marewa on Friday. Photo/Warren Buckland

A senior police detective has publicly criticised his communications manager after he and another officer suffered serious bite wounds during a violent arrest.

The detective and his colleague were allegedly bitten in a Pirimai street at about 9.10pm on Friday by a 40-year-old gang member suspected of the armed robbery of a bank 12 hours earlier.

Police had earlier issued a "wanted" email and file photograph of the well-known gang member alleged to have stormed the Kennedy Rd Kiwibank at gunpoint. It's claimed he was carrying a pistol, demanded money from a staff member and was handed an undisclosed sum of cash.

On Saturday the detective contacted Hawke's Bay Today, critical of police's Eastern District communications manager Kris McGehan for "glazing over" bite injuries he and a colleague had received.

The long-serving officer, who wished to remain anonymous, said Ms McGehan's report claiming the man was arrested "without particular problems" was not true.

He said he was upset the truth was not disclosed to media or the public after the attack.

"Both arresting officers received hospital treatment for bite wounds inflicted by the offender," he said.

"Police [are] yet again failing to publicise or give honest accounts of assaults on their staff.

"Whether our communications manager didn't put the right release out or wasn't privy to the information, which would be hard to believe, I'm not sure."

He said the gang member attempted to flee police after stumbling across the two officers conducting an unrelated job in the "dark, suburban" street.

"The officers and [offender] immediately identified each other in the street ... there was a tussle and physical altercation even after the offender had been sprayed with our capsicum spray.

"He's quite a big built guy, it was a violent struggle and the officers had to be backed up by other units who were called from all across Napier before he could be formally arrested. It wasn't a quick resolution."

Police Association president Greg O'Connor had spoken to the injured officer and said he was "worried" about a national trend where police communications were "reluctant" to include officer assaults in press releases.

"Two officers needed medical assistance, that's a serious incident," Mr O'Connor said.

He added police communications teams may be "trying to make New Zealand seem safer" after recently two Auckland police officer assaults also went unreported to the media.

He said the overall number of assaults on police had dropped by about 30 per cent since 2009 but the number of serious assaults on officers were up 30 per cent in the same period.

Ms McGehan said she "didn't know anything" about the assaults and "wasn't told" before notifying media of the arrest.

"I believe those facts would have come to light later in the evening," she said.

The detective involved may have spoken only as a result of a "brain fart", she said.

Police also arrested a 22-year-old man, believed to involved in the robbery on Friday. No weapon had been recovered.

The gang member was to appear in the Napier District Court today.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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