by Ross Meurant
The problem with gangs these days is quite different to the Red Squad days.
Red Squad was not a weapon only for use against the 1981 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 midnight.”
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.”
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 at 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 the Internet alone allows even the most inept among 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 — Regional 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 1980s, in today’s category of high risk and at an even higher level of, courage.
He has my respect.
The solution? — Arm the 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 [trunk] 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 drive 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.
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 and 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.
P.S. 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 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 identify 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?]
If the bad buys 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 interests.