Inquiry into police assault claims

By Kelli Hooks

35 comments


About 20 people protested outside the Masterton Police Station yesterday, claiming young people have been mistreated during arrest.

The protesters included two teenagers who alleged they had bones broken while being arrested.

Police said the claims were being taken seriously and would need further investigation, but there had been no reports of arrests involving serious injury.

Protest organiser Myrtle Ratapu said there had been several cases recently, and in the past, where police officers were alleged to have assaulted youths.

Ms Ratapu said that she wanted to see the officers responsible brought to justice, and to see police and youth come together to resolve the problem.

"I also think that one of the ways that it could be handled better would be if the Maori wardens had more to do with youths because they treat them better," she said.

Among the protesters was a 16-year-old, who did not want to be named, who said he had received a broken arm while being arrested two weeks ago.

Another teen, Djae Rhodes, 15, said he received a broken hand after being arrested for breaching the peace.

"I did not resist and they broke my hand," he said.

Manu Te Whata, 49, also said she was abused and threatened by police officers after arrest.

"They took me into the back room and started abusing me, I was verbally abused and was that far away from getting the bash, I got so scared that I just broke down and started bawling," she said.

"We're not saying we're all innocent but it's the way they've been mistreated in dealing with them."

Acting Area Commander Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said police met the group leader and agreed a way to work through their complaints.

She said some complaints had been lodged with the Independent Police Conduct Authority which would investigate.

"In relation to the other allegations we will be reviewing cell camera footage and CCTV footage and speaking to officers involved."

Police acknowledged there had been a small number of arrests where force had been used but maintained it was reasonable in the circumstances.

But she said police had no information of recent arrests resulting in serious injury until the allegations made yesterday.

"Any allegation that arrests have resulted in broken bones is very concerning and we would like to receive information as soon as possible so that they can be fully investigated.

"Police have strict guidelines when the use of force results in injury. Medical attention is sought and the incident is immediately reported."

Mrs Watson said a claim was made that one youth was tasered, but the footage from the incident showed a taser was presented but not deployed.

She said Ms Te Whata had already met with the area commander and iwi liaison officer in relation to her arrest, but the other claims had only come to light yesterday.

"Arrangements have already been made to meet with the group so we can explore these incidents in further detail. Any speculation before this has taken place is premature."

Police are encouraging anyone with information to come forward so any complaint can be fully investigated.

Over the next few weeks police will meet the group at a marae to discuss their concerns.

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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