Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Ross Meurant: Time For Police Re Calibration

Problem with gangs these days – is quite different to Red Squad days.

Red Squad was not a weapon only for use against the 81 Protest movement.  It was a weapon, in the words of former Auckland police assistant commissioner Graham Perry, to:

“Make Auckland safe enough for my mother to walk down Queen Street at mid-night.”

This was the Graham Perry who was my commanding officer when I was a detective on Regional Crime Squad – which operated to a similar code.

Perry was also the Officer Command of AOS when I was on that squad.

By the time I was a commissioned officer, I had very much embraced the ethos of Perry and my former CIB bosses John Hughes and Bruce Hutton: 

“We (the police) run this town.”


The problem? 


In my day, profile cops like Hughes and Hutton and Perry – and later me – did have to deal with violence and threats.

Examples: As an inspector I was once threated at point blank range with sawn off shot gun and on another occasion shot with a sawn off from 20 meters – he missed - but was charged with attempted murder of me.

But Police in my days – were very much protected.

By that I mean, their places of residence and schools of their children, were not accessible.

Violence was directed against us as individuals – and not our families.

Well – one exception I recall- a bomb designed for the home of John Hughes was exploded on the doorstep of some poor fellow with the same name as the then, detective sergeant John Hughes.

These days, internet alone allows even the ineptest amongst us, to track down someone they don’t like.

A detective sergeant or inspector level does place such officers in leadership situations where animosity becomes personal and not just aimed at the police per se.

It takes a special kind of cop to have the ability and fortitude to confront the gangs and crime networks and an even higher level of commitment and courage, to be a leader of a squad tracking serious crime and gangs.

This ease at which a cop’s family can be tracked today, places leaders of squads like I was on - Region Crime; Drug Squad, AOS, Red Squad and police criminal intelligence units, at high risk – because they are identified either by media or appearance in Court – and can then be “tracked”.

Today I would put international drug cartel investigator, detective inspector John Sowter – a former constable on my section late 1980ies, in today’s category of high risk and at an even higher level of, courage. 

He has my respect.


The solution?   Arm Police 24/7?

In a recent article, Arm the Police 24/7 (1) I made a case to arm police 24/7.  In reality, all front-line police are armed – they all carry guns in a cabinet in the boot of their patrol vehicles.

However, scampering to grab a firearm from the boot may well have been the time lapse which contributed to the killing of constable Matthew Hunt. (2)

In the same article (3) I did however remind readers that in over 40 cases of police shooting people, none of these cases were ever reviewed before a proper Court of Law – and that all have been sanitised in camera (that is the internal police review committee IPCA, out of public sight with no cross examination of witnesses by independent lawyers), with no prosecutions of police – even for manslaughter.

How the accidental shooting of courier driver Halatau Naitoko (4) was less a case of manslaughter than some bloke accidentally shooting his mate while deer stalking, in my view exposes a chronic flaw in our legal system, denying the public the hand brake on police conduct they deserve, and which would be imposed by proper open court examination.

But whereas I do consider that it is now time to arm police 24/7, this alone is not the solution.

Because the problem I identify, is the danger to the families of profile police in the front line against gangs and organised crime.


Other solutions?

If I was commissioner of police at this time, what would I do to bring to heel gangs which ride noise violating motorcycles with disregard for the laws and with apparent impunity and/or drug importers with links to serious international criminal organisations.

For a start, less time issuing infringement tickets in Remuera, Fendalton and Karori to white folk whom police know, will pay their fines and won’t get out of the vehicle and smash them. 

Many will regard the attention to minor traffic violations (lowering speed limits is saving lives – what demonstrable nonsense) while having minimal or no presence on (taking one of many examples) the Waikato Auckland expressway same time as a horde of gang members ride rampant and attack motorists, as insulting and behaviour which undermines confidence in the police.

Point? Better utilization of resources and cut whinging about not enough staff.

PS        And dare I say it?   Review the ratio of male female cops – ‘cause at the end of the WOKE rainbow there are physically capable bad arse dudes out there whom most male cops could not handle.

For a start, if I was commissioner of police, I’d form a unit whose members would have total protection from discovery of identification.

Not even would work mates know that a colleague had been transferred to this “special squad”, because recruits to the squad would be required to ostensibly resign and move to a state anonymous – probably a time limit of 2 years on the squad.

Why the secrecy?  Already a number of cops have been convicted of gang association - and it would be a fool who believed that somewhere else in the bowels of the behemoth, there are no more ‘cops’ who would sell their mates for a cash payment.

Therefore, the Special Squad members would have no contact with the world outside the Special Squad.

The Special Squad would be fully equipped – from weapons to protection of identity in courts to the extent they would wear masks in court.

Of course, going down this path makes removal of the IPCA review of police killings, absolutely essential.  For if one is to have a squad of the calibre I suggest, that does not mean they would have the right to act with impunity – above the law.

Any “special squad” as I envisage, would have secrecy of their identities and therefore families, as their weapon of protection – rather than a gung-ho attitude with a firearm.

Outside the Square?

Of course, one could hire in a team of mercenaries.  Americans are well equipped to provide such services: Blackwater for one. (5) [Maybe a Step Too Far?]

Residual Problem?

If the bad guys can’t identify the good guys (Special Squad) then sooner or later the bad guys might focus further up the tree for a target?

In which case, the commissioner might be well reminded of liability in big business?

The Buck Stops at the Top.

Ross Meurant, graduate in politics both at university and as a Member of Parliament; formerly police inspector in charge of Auckland spies & V.I.P. security; currently Honorary Consul for an African state, shareholding director of foreign commercial assets in New Zealand and has international business interest.


(3) Ibid


Terry Morrissey said...

How about just round up all the gang members, put a NAIT tag in each and every one that sends out a detectable signal.
Outlaw gangs. and I mean OUTLAW in that gangs be dispersed and any possessions confiscated. Any attempt to reform be an offence with significant penalties.
Alternatively have gang members assembled periodically and given strict re-education. Pretty much along the old CMT annual camps without the military side but with discipline, physical training and preferably held at Waiouru around June/July. If that doesn't work lock em up.
Show them the respect they show others.

Brian Mullane said...

Before any of these recommendations and ideas ever happen, the core problem has to be sorted, that is the Police Executive and the way the Police Commissioner is appointed. I was a cop in Wellington for 10yrs ('72-'82) and even back then I was witness to the ethical and moral corruption that was (and still is) rampant in the top echelon of the Police elite. It is a dog eat dog environment, almost to the point that these senior commissioned officers have to wear a flak jacket to work every day, doubled layered on the back to deflect the knife attacks, to protect themselves from their like minded colleagues, all clambering up the greasy pole of promotion and desperate to get that top job.
Current Commissioner Coster is a typical example of a political appointment. He is a 'toy boy' of PM Adern who idolised the work he did whilst seconded to the Justice Department for 2 years (2016-2018) as Deputy CEO. His role there was to cover-up the June 2013 Police Vetting scandal and to ensure no victim of that scandal was ever going to get Justice in the NZ justice system. He acheived that. He has only 24 years Police service, 2 of which were working for a Crown Solicitor agency in Auckland and 2 in the Justice Department in Wgtn. He is a greenhorn, no frontline experience.

ross meurant said...


I gave Coster the benefit - in earlier articles - but irrespective of that; your account of the police culture within is SPOT ON.

I begin to wonder whether there is a separation of power between the Executive i.e Prime Minister and the "independence of government departments on implementation of policy set by the executive"?

Reverting to the culture: As Wallace Rowling said of politics: "In politics its not the enemy you need worry about. You can see them. It your friends; they come from behind."

Perhaps you might pick up a copy of OUT OF THE INFERNO - a recent novel by me of which Chris Trotter said: "The only way Meurant can tell the truth is write fiction."

A novel which captures very much your lament in your above comment.

Plimsol Marker said...

I worked in a civilian capacity for the Ministry of Transport (Prosecution and Marine), Police (twice), and Statistics.(Retired these 14 yrs past). So I can understand the underpinnings of your comments.
I found the Uniformed Senior Traffic Administration principled and efficient but the persons on the ground were a mixed bunch and some not well educated. The Senior Police Officers I dealt with (Mildenhall, Stanhope, Downie) were educated, reasoned and considerate, but the younger frontline persons not so well educated and non understanding of some of the legal aspects of their own actions.
The Senior staff at Statistics were a mix of war returned govt servants mostly with limited education and newer graduates looking for an easy career like school teaching without the responsibilities of children, educated but not especially useful. My observation is that administrative control tends to breed small lunacies. The biggest impediment to minor stupidities in govt administration appears to be the Govt Secrets confidentiality requirement. This provision was instigated to preserve the privacy of citizens and their private information although that has been widely eroded today. For some time employees have been threatened with this as senior staff use it to cover up frequent minor problems. Problems that would never arise if the initiators thought they might be exposed and have their careers suspended.
My recommendation is that before we get the Police fully armed 24/7 we should institute a Government administration ombudsman office specifically for receiving Govt employee disclosure.
Any employee or contractor to govt should be able to make full disclosure to the Civil Ombudsman in complete confidence. The Ombudsman should then investigate with full powers of the Police and Auditors and follow up upon the disclosures. The Ombudsman's report should be public and that should include Reporting to any relevant Minister and any recommendation to desist, prohibit, for termination or prosecution.
I fear for too long, Fear of Termination or retribution has prevented honest civil servants from exposing corruption from within.
It is my belief that before we institute real power we need to ensure that all departments of government are free from miscellaneous corruption.