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'Police Insensitivity Bad Taste' says Turia

'Police Insensitivity Bad Taste' says Turia

Tariana Turia, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru

7 August 2007

The torturous seven year wait endured by the Wallace whanau of Waitara has been hard enough, without now having to put up with the insensitivity of Police comments says Tariana Turia, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru.

"I well remember the Prime Minister coming out a week after the fatal shooting of Steven Wallace, and criticising what she described as "a breakdown in relationships between Maori and the police in this community (Waitara) and from what I have seen, in other Taranaki towns" said Mrs Turia.

"The tragic death of Mr Wallace also provoked the Race Relations Conciliator, Rajen Prasad, to visit Taranaki, and his recommendations dealt specifically with the perception that police officers are perceived as racist and treat Maori differently" recalled Mrs Turia.

"Here we have a report which criticizes the three officers involved in the 30 April 2000 shooting, being greeted with comments from the Police Commissioner that "I have nothing but praise for all the officers involved".

"Implying what?" asked Mrs Turia. "That Steven Wallace deserved to be shot?"

"To add insult to injury, Police Association President, Greg O'Connor, predicted that any findings by the Coroner, or indeed the Police Complaints Authority, would be "meaningless and irrelevant" because things had changed since 2000" said Mrs Turia.

"What has not changed, is the failure of the Police to demonstrate respect for the grieving whanau, who lost a family member as a result of the fatal shooting by police" said Mrs Turia.

"I give full praise to coroner, Gordon Matenga, who has been brave enough to identify the grave errors in decision-making and leadership exhibited by the three individuals involved in the incident".

"He has carefully considered the way in which the police made their decisions, and has concluded that there was a "lack of leadership shown at the scene"; that command was lacking, and that the evidence revealed "there was no discussion as to whether they should approach Steven Wallace, there was no discussion as to how to approach Steven Wallace; there was no discussion as to whether they should simply cordon and contain or approach and make a voice appeal".

"New Zealanders will judge for themselves how the senior authorities in the Police can possibly read this report, and see the crucial failure of communication; compassion and inability to take responsibility as anything other than seriously tarnishing the reputation of the Police" said Mrs Turia.


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