Police Raids Following Facebook Posts Ruled Unlawful
An announcement today that three Police raids of firearm licence holders following the Christchurch Mosque shootings were illegal, raises questions about Police over-reacting to what people say on social media, according to the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO).
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that Police raided homes of firearm licence holders when the circumstances only warranted at most a visit and discussion. The Authority ruled that Police misused Section 18, which says Police may search, seize, and detain without warrant if they have reasonable grounds to suspect a breach of the Arms Act or an intention to kill or injure.
COLFO Chairman Michael Dowling says heightened emotions had warped sound judgement at senior levels of the Police, revealing bias and antipathy toward firearm licence holders.
“Senior Police made major mistakes, broke the law and endangered lives because they let emotions get the better of them.
“These were not actions made with the best of intentions, but the basest of intentions – hostility toward a specific group of people.
“Their raids unnecessarily created highly volatile and aggressive situations involving ordinary citizens who had no connection to the Mosque shootings and posed no imminent danger to society.
“These weren’t just mistakes of the moment – these were raids organised and conducted by senior Police detectives mainly based on Facebook comments of their targets. In one case, the comments simply indicated opposition to the Government’s new firearm ban.”
COLFO helped bring these cases, and many others, to the attention of the Police Deputy Commissioner and Area Managers. Although the Authority noted that Police had subsequently apologised, Dowling says that COLFO is still receiving complaints about Police conduct toward firearm licence holders – even as recently as yesterday.
“There is no indication that Police are learning from these mistakes at this time. Most people expected Police would act quickly after the events of March 15th 2020 to prevent copy-cat actions. However, we also expect that Police have processes, checks and controls in place to prevent internal bias and over-reaction when an organisation has access to deadly force in its response,” Dowling says.