A really crappy day

Written By: - Date published: 5:00 am, August 18th, 2009 - 36 comments
Categories: activism, police - Tags:

I hadn’t been to a protest in months. After everything I’ve been through, activist stuff tends to make me more than a little angry, which is part of the reason I’ve kept away from the front line for a while. Of course, being as assertive as I am, whenever there is trouble, it seems to be me who ends up bearing the brunt of it. Not so today.

I went to a midday lecture, with the intent of meeting with an old friend for lunch afterwards. As it turned out, the friend had been in court supporting the Operation Eight defendants. So lunch was a meeting of many old friends eating a nice vegan Hare Krishna meal on campus in Auckland. Naturally one thing led to another, and the rest of the day was spent at the High Court watching the shambles of a hearing into the validity of surveillance used as evidence. While I still make no judgment (now that terrorism is ruled out) as to the overall validity of the minor cases’ against the majority of defendants I know very little about, there are a couple of good friends involved whom I do have faith in. One of the defendants was a friend of my fathers a couple of decades ago, and with him, for me the jury is still out.

Anyhow, I watched in court for a while, listening to police witnesses being cross-examined, and photographic evidence being questioned over and over as to whether the places in question were private or public land (both legally contentious then, but perhaps not once the new Search and Surveillance Bill which I will write more about later is passed into law). Eventually, not being familiar with the places in question, I left courtroom 12.

There had been a policeman standing in the common area outside the courtroom since I had first arrived. At various times, I had seen him looking through photograph sheets of activists, trying to match everyone up. Seemingly, he had had problems fitting me into the story. Perhaps my absence from anything exciting in a few months had resulted in my removal from the “wanted lists’. Fairly unlikely given my knowledge of the people on those lists (including people involved in protests for at most a month or two some years ago). More likely they were using that really old original mugshot of me from when I was 16. Various people were telling me that every time I walked past, he would again pull out the photo sheet and attempt to identify me. Perhaps, seven years on I look a little different?

On my way out of the High Court building, I approached this policeman and asked: “So, have you managed to find a picture of me on your photo-sheet yet?”, to which I got the simple response “No”. The “No” seemed to be a bit defensive though, more like he was denying looking at any photo-sheets in the first place rather than my position on them. So off I went on my merry way.

Outside the court I saw the same policeman looking at “us” with interest while talking on a cellphone. Attempting some sort of “counter-surveillance”, a friend of mine who happens to be a photography student with a flash camera tried to take a photograph him. I was standing with another friend a little way down the road, and saw the policeman grab the photographer, looking like he was attempting an arrest. We immediately ran up to the action to see what was going on. The policeman had the photographer with his hands behind his back, camera still in one hand. I asked the policeman if he was planning to arrest the photographer, to which the response was “no”. I then informed the policeman that if he was not placing the man under arrest, he had no lawful right to detain him. Meanwhile, the 18 year old female friend I had with me (also the brother of the photographer) took the camera out of the photographers hand in an attempt to prevent any damage. The policeman continued his hold on the photographer for a further 30 seconds or so, before finally conceding and letting him go. I then informed the policeman that if he were to apologise then and there, I would not take the matter further. He refused.

I wrote down the policeman’s badge number, evident on his uniform, and requested his name and rank. He refused to give me those details. I then requested that he radio his superiors with a request for them to review the situation and to take note of a complaint of assault. Initially that was refused, however under sustained pressure he appeared to give in. I could not hear what conversation went on, but the conclusion seemed to be that no action would be taken. At that point I made a decision to phone 111 and report that I had been a witness to an assault, and to request the presence of a uniform incident car to deal with the situation. The 111 callcentre informed me that they would take note of the complaint, but that any further response would be decided by someone higher up the chain of command. I supplied my personal details, and the badge number (AY40) of the policeman involved.

Having finished the emergency call, I then attempted to find out whether anyone had been witness to the assault. There was a truck parked on the road right next to where we were, so I asked both the truck driver and another man standing near whether they had witnessed the event. Both said they had not seen anything. I then asked a parking warden a few metres down the street whether she had witnessed anything. She told me that her back was turned and she also didn’t see anything. I got the feeling that the parking warden had actually seen the events unfold, but for perhaps fair enough reasons, didn’t want to get involved. Within a couple of minutes, a police paddy-wagon drove out of the carpark of the High Court and parked next to where we were all standing. Two policemen got out of the paddy-wagon and approached myself, the two other witnesses, and the policeman concerned. The only potential impartial witness left at the scene was the parking warden.

The two policemen who arrived split up, one interviewing us “activists”, while the other interviewed very briefly the policeman we had alleged committed an assault. Then, one policeman was left to interview us witnesses, while the other took aside the photographer who was assaulted. They took each of our personal details, in turn doing a QP (Query Person) on each of us to find out who was “known to the police” and who had “criminal convictions”.

As it turned out, the “senior constable”, Owen Arapai, badge number WS94 interviewed myself and the other witnesses. The “rookie constable” (4 months into the job), Nga Paratainga, badge number AL39 interviewed the photographer / victim of the alleged assault..

At first, things seemed to be going well. I felt surprised that despite my much suppressed pessimism in the police (everyone else told me it was a waste of time calling 111), they actually seemed to be taking the complaint somewhat seriously. The “perpetrator” was for a while left standing by himself looking very worried.

Next, despite my feeling that all was going well, I, the other witnesses, and the photographer / victim were warned for a “breach of the peace”. I told the Senior Constable that if he felt there had been some sort of breach of the peace, he should arrest us (after all, breach of the peace is supposed to mean “we could charge you, but have decided to be nice and let you off”). The Senior Constable backed off.

I then suggested to the Senior Constable that he go interview the parking warden as a potential witness, still standing a few metres down the road. I was told that I had no right to tell him how to do his job. I explained that I wasn’t “telling him” anything, but was simply making a suggestion. I then got a fairly lengthy lecture about how he was more than capable of doing his job without my help. Eventually though (after again speaking to the perpetrator who it must be said looked a little more relaxed after that talk), he did move down the road to it interview that potential witness.

All seemed to be finishing up, and I was expecting a summing up of the conclusions reached by the officers called to the scene. While the “senior constable” was finishing up with the parking warden, the “rookie constable” engaged in some friendly conversation. He also let slip that when they were finished, they had a “separate” incident they wished to speak with my 18 year old female friend about. When he said “separate incident”, I assumed that he was talking about an event on some previous day, clearly not the “incident” at hand.

When the “senior constable” was free, both officers approached my friend, and informed her she was under arrest for “assault on a police officer”, read her her rights, hand cuffed her, and put her in the back of the paddy-wagon. We were all struggling to think what this “separate incident” was about. The officers told us that the matter at hand had been dealt with, and that any formal complaint would have to be laid at the Auckland Central Police Station. We asked where our friend was being taken, and were told she would also be taken to the Auckland Central Police Station.

So, off the rest of went to the Auckland Central Police Station, both to lay that formal assault charge, and to wait for our friend to be released from custody. What a waste of time. We were informed that the “desk sergeant” was unavailable, and therefore we couldn’t be officially interviewed about the assault we wished to complain about. We were offered only an IPCA form to fill out, which we were advised upon a quick call to our lawyer, to leave for later.

We then wandered down to the “watch house” section of the police station. This is where you can inquire about prisoners and await their release. When we asked about our friend we were told that she wasn’t there. I then phoned our lawyer to request she inquire about our friend. Our lawyer called Auckland Central, where we were told our friend would be taken. They had no records of her. I then requested our lawyer phone and inquire at the Downtown Police Station. Downtown Police Station were told that she had been taken there, but would now be transferred to Auckland Central. So we waited for the next couple of hours at Auckland Central.

At one point while waiting, we were told by an officer leaving the station that the reason our friend was being delayed was because she was refusing to co-operate with standard processing, such as being fingerprinted and having her mugshot taken. I requested to speak with her, asserting that I may be able to change her mind. My request was refused. So I got back on the phone to our lawyer and requested that she phone and request to speak with our friend to make sure everything was okay, and to inform her of what she was and was not legally obliged to do.

As it turned out, our friend was more than willing to comply with the “usual processing”, such as formal mugshots and fingerprinting, but had refused to dress up and stand particular ways for photographs in her cell, that had been requested by in her words “3 big men threatening me”. She was told she wouldn’t be released from custody unless she complied with the unreasonable requests. When she asked what law they were supposedly doing all this under, one supposedly said “under section… I’ll have to go find out”. Of course that officer never did find out what section of what act, because no such section of any such act exists. She refused the demands, and was eventually released without complying.

Before being released however, she was forced to sign a bail form agreeing not to enter the Auckland CBD, and not to go near the Auckland High Court. She alleges these conditions were added after she signed the form, and in any case when she was released, they did not give her a copy of the bail form as is usual practice. We got outside the police station when I finally asked to see the bail form, and it was then she told me she didn’t have a copy. I then marched us back up into the police station and asked her to request a copy. They found one for her, and I then requested that the Auckland CBD ban be amended to allow her to visit her lawyer who both lives and works inside the CBD. She was told she would have to arrange for her lawyer to meet her outside of the CBD.

Auckland CBD bans make life rather difficult if you rely on public transport – I had a similar stupid bail condition when I was 16, and it makes you realise fast how all Auckland public transport centres around the CBD. Fortunately, her bail condition only lasts until she appears in court on Friday, where hopefully the ridiculous condition will be chucked. On the upside, she has a great excuse for not attending the rest of the Operation Eight hearings this week 🙂

It turns out her charge for “assaulting a police officer” was for an offense today, so just as the police lied about taking her straight to the Auckland Central Police Station, they also lied about it being a “separate incident”. Personally, I think they wanted to get their mate out of the shit and picked out who they saw as the youngest, most vulnerable of us to arrest.

Incidentally, the photographer thought he recognised the policeman who assaulted him, and upon checking with our lawyer, it turns out he already has a case lodged against the very same officer for a separate incident which fortunately was caught on video camera, and hence not subject to any “he said she said” bullshit.

So all in all, my trying to help the situation and attempting to resolve an assault failed miserably, and only resulted in an innocent friend being charged. I guess the message is to let the police act above the law and hope for the best?

36 comments on “A really crappy day”

  1. BLiP 1

    You’re right, Rocky – pigs really are far better behaved than that lot.

  2. ghostwhowalks 2

    Maybe dozens of people should turn up at court, since now under the Jackboot State, merely attending a trail makes you a person under suspicion.

  3. delusionalbob 3

    You wrestle with pigs…

    What do you expect my dear young things, warm scones and cups of tea?

    • BLiP 3.1

      No. But, seriously, since when is “kaupapa whai oranga mo te iti me te rahi” out of the question?

  4. outofbed 4

    ah takes me back..

  5. lprent 5

    Incidentally, the photographer thought he recognised the policeman who assaulted him, and upon checking with our lawyer, it turns out he already has a case lodged against the very same officer for a separate incident which fortunately was caught on video camera, and hence not subject to any “he said she said’ bullshit.

    So in effect this is a police man assaulting someone who has complaint/case against him. It is no wonder that

    I wrote down the policeman’s badge number, evident on his uniform, and requested his name and rank. He refused to give me those details.

    the officer didn’t want to give a name. That is a hell of a bad look for the police. From memory they are required to give those details when asked.

    The arrest sounds like the police are attempting to intimidate a complaint away. Probably explains the games with a female prisoner in booking as well. A few male cops getting their jollies? Or basic intimidation? Either way it all looks like bad news

    When is the operation 8 case on? Sounds like it is time to go down and start a wholesale photographing campaign on the police.

    • rocky 5.1

      If you want to be arrested sure, by all means come down to the High Court any day this week from 10am. They are all rather touchy about photographs being taken. Obviously you can’t take them inside the court, but if you see them outside… Just don’t expect to do so without repercussions, as they made abundantly clear yesterday.

    • rolla_fxgt 5.2

      lprent

      Cops have to give you there badge number if requested, but not there name or rank, though if they’re being a good sort they usually will.
      Usually the only reasons they won’t give it to you is if you’re being a bit annoying to them/threatening them (which in my opinion is fair enough), or if they think they’re in the wrong (which seems to be the case on this occasion).

      Ask any guy under 30 that drives what is considered to be a ‘boy racer car’, how often you get picked on & how often you’ll only get a badge number. I’d suggest it’d be about as often as you guys. Usually its not even when you’re doing anything wrong, you could just be on the way to burger king or even uni, and you’ll get pulled over & given the thorough once over, to try & find something wrong with your car or driving, even if it is trumped up.

  6. That sucks rocky, sorry to hear about your troubles.

  7. lprent 7

    As far as I’m aware I have exactly the same rights to take them as they do in a public place.

  8. ieuan 8

    Simple question Rocky, is it illegal to photograph a police officer especially if that police officer asks you not to?

    • bobbity 8.1

      Irrelevant – it is however pretty dumb.

      In many countries around the world you’d be endangering your life baiting police anywhere in the world is a past time for fools or those who are suicidally ideological.

      • felix 8.1.1

        That’s right bobbity, people should tolerate abuses of power by the state because other states are even more abusive.

        Everyone listen up: if you get hassled, harassed, assaulted, beaten, falsely arrested, illegally searched or otherwise violated by the branch of the state which is supposed to protect you, you’re just going to have to suck it up and thank them for not shooting you in the face.

        If you were standing up for your rights at the time, you got what you deserved. Don’t stand up for your rights again.

        This stuff always brings the nasty authoritarians out of the woodwork.

        • bobbity 8.1.1.1

          Read what I said dickwad – baiting the police is a game for fools.

          There’s far more effective ways to take grievances for being hassled, harassed, assaulted, beaten, falsely arrested, illegally searched or otherwise violated than to play the silly games that these smart arse teens seem to involve themselves in.

    • BLiP 8.2

      Simple answer: no.

  9. mike 9

    Hey rocky here’s a tip to avoid this sort of stuff happening – get a real job, you know one that occupies a good chunk of the day and keeps you from loitering in courthouses – there’s a good girl.

    • lprent 9.1

      Hey mike – don’t be a dipshit.

      She has been doing ‘real’ jobs since she was 17 – working as a programmer (and she is pretty good in my estimation – makes me feel old and slow sometimes). It has taken considerable convincing to get her to stop and get some training at uni. Don’t try to disrupt it..

      Besides she’d make you look like the pathetic old bugger that you are if you ever had to work with her.

      lprent, as the uncle

      • roger nome 9.1.1

        “Hey mike don’t be a dipshit.”

        That’s like asking a rabid dog to stop biting its arse – ain’t gonna happen unfortunately.

        • lprent 9.1.1.1

          mike is one of the more effective proponents of the more extreme right here. Surprised the hell out of me when I realized a while ago that my alter-ego sysop personality hadn’t had a reason to ban him virtually forever (last time was when the moderators were running under very little tolerance while cleaning up the comments section). He has earned enough credibility with the moderators generally (from my perspective), that it is hard to think of when I wouldn’t simply reprimand rather than boot.

          He generally concentrates on playing the policy rather than the people. When he does play the person, he tends to do it with a deliberate point.

          It often seems strange to run across those on the far right who operate with some intelligence on the net rather than the usual supercilious pretense at it that most of that political persuasion affect. However they do exist

    • Draco T Bastard 9.2

      Translation: Stay out of trouble and do as you’re told.

      mike, your authoritarian streak is showing.

  10. John 10

    Thanks Rochelle for the detailed writeup.

    As the photographer involved I just want to stress that this kind of incident is normal when it comes to police and protests. I am regularly threatened with arrest and have been searched numerous times (under liquor bans) after taking photos of police. As protesters we have to video everything to prevent this kind of thing happening, unfortunately my video camera is getting repaired or else it would have probably been there yesterday.

    The idea that we have a right to protest free from state intervention in Aotearoa is laughable. In New Zealand protesters have to deal with constant surveillance and a constant stream of arrests for things such as breach of the police – disorderly conduct and the occasional assault on police. Convictions almost never result but by the time its gone to trial you have already lost 4 or more working days and the hassle of finding a lawyer preparing a defence etc.

    • lprent 10.1

      I remember that the Police had more possession of Rochelles video camera for the two years after I helped her buy it than she did. It was held for ‘evidence’ and never put in front of the court.

      Effectively the police were using the evidence laws to cover for their theft.

      Ummm I should ask the IPCA for a ruling on the policy of the police seizing video gear. After all there is effectively nothing on a digital system that would allow the tracking of a digital record to the equipment that took it.

      The police have this interesting phobia about being filmed in their work. The Rodney King effect?

  11. Pete 11

    It’s really hard to reconcile the police’s position on this one – maybe they are doing the whole ‘profiling’ approach whereby if you look like a young trouble-maker you get the full wrath that comes from the ‘law’.

    I’ve never heard of something so ridiculous – the police involved should be ashamed – not least because they give the rest a bad name.

    And Rochelle – ignore the comments from the likes of mike and delusionalbob – they are probably a bit ‘lacking’ and will never get it.

    Good luck to your friend and yourself – keep safe (a bit strange when cops are supposed to fulfill that role).

  12. roger nome 12

    “fathers” in second para should be: fathers’

    And cases’ should be: cases.

  13. It never ceases to amaze me how the Police waste their own time, arresting people for the slightest reason while real crimes go un-investigated.

    • felix 13.1

      They’re not “wasting time”. They’re teaching people not to fuck with them and punishing those who dare, simple as that.

  14. Rex Widerstrom 14

    I too am sorry to hear of your troubles rocky, but supremely unsurprised. If I could be at the High Court with you I would. But I must admit I’m also pleased, in a way, to see this happening but being documented and reported like this because it makes my accounts of my experience with Police — which few people who haven’t directly witnessed completely believe — more credible.

    Interesting how the increased availability and portability of electronics, and the net, have the potential to change the game — and Mr Plod knows it.

    Twenty years ago, when I started being subject to the same sort of harassment and intimidation, a video camera was the size of a 4-slot toaster and was accompanied by a recorder the size of a stove, onto which you had to hand-wind tape and which needed mains electricity. You could of course take film photographs, but if you wanted them “widely” seen you’d have to stand at the photocopier.

    I’m a little surprised that you all seem to rely on one person’s video camera, though, when nowadays virtually every cellphone has one built in.

    Kia kaha. I only wish there was more I could do to help.

  15. Armchair Critic 15

    Rocky
    The police seem quite happy to use video surveillance from all sorts of sources, public, commericial, private, whatever. Do you know if the incident was caught on anyone else’s camera, I figure there must be quite a few around the high court area. Even if you don’t know now, a simple walk down the street might find some cameras for you. Do it as soon as possible because sometimes the images are only kept for a short time.

  16. George D 16

    I know this kind of situation all too well – not personally, but it occurs to people I know on a fairly regular basis.

    You really need two photographers these days – one to video the police behaviour, and another to video the police arresting the photographer (to prove that they weren’t assaulting the officer, or whatever charge they decide to make up post facto).

  17. Helo 17

    God your a joke!

    You deserved everything you got. How many people where robbed, beaten, otherwise while you wasted police time on your trivial nonsense.

    You should be arrested for wasting police time and mine (i read the whole sordid tale)

    In saying that please update on friday.

    Thanks xx

    • lprent 17.1

      Ummm perhaps you should point to a single thing that rocky or john or the young woman who was arrested did that was illegal or even wrong?

      Then list the things that the police were doing that was wrong. There is a extensive list.

      Don’t you think that police should be accountable for their actions?

      One of the interesting things is that it is surprising that the judges haven’t shut down the police doing photo lookups at court, even in the corridors. It implies that the police are looking for something and have permission to do it.

      If that had been a gang member then someone would have been all over it for intimidation of witnesses. Bearing in mind the circumstances of the operation 8 and the behaviour of the police in it, they obviously have a vested interest in the outcome.

      They shouldn’t be doing photo-ids of people attending a trial unless they have a bloody good reason – presumably explained to the judge.

      I wonder what that reason is

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