'Leftie' backs police action

By Stuart Dye

A former top cop has criticised "extreme and excessive" police actions in investigating possible guerrilla activists, but the operation has been backed by a left-leaning commentator with political activist links.

Ross Meurant, a senior police officer and National MP for nine years, said yesterday the police were guilty of "self-hype and self-justification".

But Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury - the man behind investigative TV series Stake Out - said claims that police had over-reacted were wrong.

Mr Bradbury, who calls himself a leftie, said "middle New Zealand will recoil in horror" when it hears the reasons behind the police raids.

The station manager for ALT TV, who says he has links with political activist movements, said the activities of some "clowns" could lead to a backlash from the wider public.

"If the allegations as I understand them are true, this country is about to get very, very, very angry," he said on an online blog.

"Though I don't believe for one moment what will be revealed is anything more than stupid arrogant boasts ... middle New Zealand will recoil in horror."

Approached by the Herald yesterday, Mr Bradbury refused to elaborate, other than to say that the people involved were "not terrorists".

"Most New Zealanders will see police as behaving correctly when the full story gets out. There is going to be outrage," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Meurant, who has a controversial background including being part of the police Red Squad during the 1981 Springbok tour, said criminal intelligence on Maori activism had not changed since the 1980s.

He admitted he used to "believe and regurgitate" the intelligence on Maori activism - and based his maiden speech in Parliament on the threat it posed - but in hindsight could see it was "idle and often bravado boasts blown out of proportion" by police.

Officers were victims of their own propaganda, said Mr Meurant, who was convicted on three charges, including one of impersonating a police officer, after a fight with a truckie in 2002.

"In essence, I believe the actions of the police are totally excessive in the extreme," Mr Meurant told the Herald.

"This is always the case where subjective assessment of information is peer-reviewed by one's immediate supervisor and all persons on the police unit concerned have a self-interest to justify their existence as 'spooks'."

Mr Meurant, who lives in Prague and described himself as involved in investment analysis of business opportunities in former Eastern Bloc countries, compared the police actions to those of the Bush Administration invading Iraq with supposed evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Jon White, police Acting Deputy Commissioner Operations, said the police had tried to balance the needs of the operation with the perceptions of the community.

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