Call to change police search laws

By Annette Lambly


Paparoa residents concerned over allegations that police used excessive force on a 64-year-old woman during a recent drug recovery operation want changes to the Search and Surveillance Act.

The local woman claims she was put in a headlock and had her arms locked high behind her back by police officers during the incident. She said she had told police a cannabis plant they had spotted in an air surveillance operation was not hers and she had shown them the boundary between her place and the neighbouring property which the plant was on.

Supporters who held a public meeting at Paparoa last week say they intend to lobby Northland MP Mike Sabin to initiate changes to the legislation. Police Whangarei/Kaipara area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips attended the meeting at Paparoa. She would not comment on specifics of the case but confirmed a full investigation was underway. The officers concerned had not been stood down.

"It is regrettable this has happened," Ms Phillips said. "I accept on the face of it it doesn't look good, [but] there are two sides to a story and this will all be looked into as part of the investigation."

Ms Phillips said the Act did have caveats and each situation had to be determined on its own merits.

Complaints were investigated robustly and anything "found wanting would be dealt with".

Some residents say they have not yet ruled out court action and one called for the public to pool resources to pay for the complainant to sue the police.

James Lyon, who organised the meeting, says section 20 of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012 "gives the police too much power and not all officers are suitable or capable of handling such power".

"We need to feel protected by police, not threatened by them in our own homes," he said. "While I have full respect for the police, we want to signal to police that unprofessional behaviour is unacceptable."

The woman said she had been completely "innocent of any wrongdoing". She had felt threatened by the police and believed she was "in some jeopardy".

She required medical attention and has since laid a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

- Northern Advocate

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