Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Police protection is right of every citizen

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Sergeant Martin Folan leaving the Auckland District Court. Photo / Dean Purcell
Sergeant Martin Folan leaving the Auckland District Court. Photo / Dean Purcell

Henderson Sergeant Martin Folan got off on six assault charges against prisoners this week.

A jury wouldn't convict him despite the word of nine fellow police officers.

Folan said in court, one prisoner "came flying at me ... I raised my right leg and pushed him away with the ball of my foot ... pushing him off balance."

Another cop testified that Folan had kicked the prisoner in the stomach as hard as he could.

A charge around another incident, where a prisoner lost a testicle, was withdrawn.

Folan also denied elbowing a 16-year-old in the face after the kid asked him why he was being a dick arresting him.

Folan said he couldn't recall touching him.

There was damning evidence from nine cops who said they witnessed Folan's alleged assaults.

He apparently even boasted to other cops about his thuggery.

He tried impressing another sergeant, it was claimed, by boasting to her that he choked a prisoner with both hands and he'd smashed another's head on a concrete floor. His response in court was that he couldn't recall saying that.

When a female constable was asked if she and her colleagues were making up their stories, she asked the court if they believed she enjoyed being in the stand giving evidence against her sergeant.

Sadly, the decent cops who testified against Folan will be seen by some of their fraternity as narks. Will people like them step forward again?

Every time I've been arrested in New Zealand, the cops have been nothing but professional.

The only time I've ever been on the receiving end of biff was in Brisbane in 1980.Queensland was ruled then by a despot called Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

I read in the newspaper there was a demo for feminists. So my girlfriend and I popped off to the march where there were a couple of hundred women facing twice as many cops with batons.

I learnt it was illegal to demonstrate.

We hadn't even reached the rally before three fat coppers intercepted us, telling us to "piss off". My girlfriend, being a good white-middle-class girl, remonstrated about her right to walk on the street.

A baton punch in the guts for both of us was followed by us being dragged, her by the hair, into a paddy wagon full of crew-cut women.

We were kept in the clink for the rest of the weekend.

After refusing dinner and then being a smart alec (like Folan's 16-year-old complainant) - I demanded to speak to the maitre d' to complain about the food quality and the surly staff - I was yanked into a room where three coppers gave me a good going over with wet newspapers rolled up like a truncheon.

It bloody hurt but apparently it doesn't leave any bruising.

I can't remember if it's true.

On Monday we were let out and told to get out of town by nightfall or else.

I asked about cash missing from my returned belongings. The desk sergeant asked if I'd like to go back inside.

When I told locals what happened they painfully explained, as an adult does to a child, that that was how it worked in their police state.

Cops like the man Folan was painted in court created a culture that pervaded the Queensland police force at the time.

I hope for our sake the police internal investigation is robust.

Cops swear an oath to protect all citizens. That includes crimes committed by police against civilians no matter how annoying they may be.

I've seen a police state and it's not something we should imitate.

- Herald on Sunday

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