Lessons learned from Operation 8

Lessons learned from Operation 8

Peter Marshall

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has released its report on Operation 8, the investigation into criminal activity in Te Urewera National Park and elsewhere.
 
The report is critical of some police actions. We accept its findings and have already made significant changes to address many of the issues noted. However, the report confirms the investigation was a "reasonable and necessary" response to the serious criminal activity being undertaken.
 
It also exposes myths that have become accepted as fact since the events of October 2007. For example, armed police officers did not search a bus full of köhanga reo children, and officers did not set up a roadblock on the confiscation line. The report acknowledges the targets of the operation were not exclusively Tühoe or indeed Mäori. Those are welcome comments.
 
The authority faults us over roadblocks at Ruatoki and Taneatua and the way officers interacted with members of the public they stopped. Likewise, our interactions with people at five of the 41 properties searched fell short of the required standard. We accept this, and that Police underestimated the affect of the operation on Ruatoki and Tühoe. I apologise for the impact on innocent residents of the Ruatoki Valley and elsewhere.
 
Without making any excuses, it's important to remember the context. The IPCA says the threat was "real and potentially serious", and acknowledges the "huge logistical challenge" of the police response.
 
We've made many changes to operational policies and practices since 2007, with the most significant following the passage of the Search and Surveillance Act 2012. This clarified the law in this area and has diminished the likelihood of similar problems arising again.
 
We'll take time to work through the Authority's recommendations in detail. I'll oversee their implementation and will do everything I can to ensure the right policies, procedures and training are in place.
 
We look forward to continuing to work with members of the community in Ruatoki and elsewhere to build and strengthen the trust which underpins our mission to make New Zealand safer for all who live or visit here. You can read more about the Police response to the report here.