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Police forced to apologise after officer's antics at traffic stop

Author
Belinda Feek, NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Sunday, 20 January 2019, 3:30p.m.

A Whangarei mother who received an apology from police after an incident involving her son hopes it gives others the confidence to stand up and question officers.

Gemma Hiakita says she'd also like to meet the officer and get him to explain his actions on the day.

Hiakita's son, Whakaari Peri, who turns 17 on Monday, was a passenger in a car that was pulled over by police in Kensington on November 1, last year.

Whakaari decided to start filming the officer who then took exception to his actions and threatened with issuing him with a ticket and taking down the details of all the other occupants.

While neither ended up taking place, Hiakita sought help from the New Zealand Police Conduct Association who laid a complaint on behalf of the family.

The complaint was eventually upheld by the Independent Police Conduct Authority who ruled the officer's actions were out of line and he should apologise.

The family received a letter the following month from Northland acting prevention manager Inspector Al Symonds, stating the "officer did not act fairly".

"The behaviour of the officer was not appropriate and I would like to offer a sincere apology from police for any stress this may have caused you."

Hiakita said she was shocked at the confidence of the officer involved, making unlawful threats towards her son and his friends.

"The confidence of that officer is what disturbed me, when he was going to give my kid a ticket."

She said the main reason her son began filming was due to having lost confidence in police after he was wrongfully identified as a suspect they were seeking while sitting in town one night.

"When he was 13 he was in town with his friends, just sitting there minding his own business ... police approached him, shoved him to the ground and twisted his arms and threatened to taser him.

"He was trying to tell them 'I'm not who you think I am, I'm just sitting here minding my own business'. Since then he has been really wary with police, that's why he got his camera out, he felt that the cop was being a bit of an a*******."

She said while she was pleased police had apologised, she felt it was impersonal.

"It's good but at the end of the day it's just some dude in an office writing an apology. It's not the actual cop."

Hiakita said she would like to meet the officer so she could "address him personally".

As for her son, he was now moving on.

"He's pretty good, he's a really chilled kid. It was more me that pushed to complain. He's just a normal 16-year-old.

"After the several occasions that Whakaari has encountered with police, I just really wanted to do something about it and hopefully others out there that aren't confident to do a complaint might see it, it might give them confidence or let them know that something can be done."

Northland police acting Inspector Dan Cleaver said they had spoken with the officer involved.

"Police, like any employer, has privacy obligations and we are not at liberty to discuss employment matters.

"We can confirm the staff member involved remains an on-duty police officer. Members of the public are lawfully entitled to film police officers in any public space.

"In this instance, police has apologised to the individual concerned regarding the actions of the attending officer. Anecdotally, we are not aware of the matter of the filming of police officers being a significant issue for staff.

 

 

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