Police accused of harassment

Friday April 13, 2018 Written by Published in Crime

Cook Islands police are unnecessarily harassing people who have had curfew conditions imposed on them by the court as part of their bail, says lawyer Norman George.

He says officers routinely invade the privacy of families after midnight, knocking on doors to wake up the person on bail and waking everyone else in the house in the process.

“They are flashing their torches through windows to see inside bedrooms and revving their vehicles’ engines to create noise, and this is often done twice a night.”

George says checking up on defendants who are on curfew is not necessary unless they are known to be “night burglars”.

“Elderly grandparents are disrupted, school children are woken up – the police should stop unnecessary checking of offenders on curfew, because these people are often kicked out by the homeowners, who become frustrated with the continual police interference.”

George said police also did not seem to put much thought into assigning sensitive intelligence-gathering duties to some officers. The police tendency to assign intelligence-gathering functions to officers known to be likely to leak sensitive information was a major disappointment, he added. “The cutting-edge approach to solving serious crime is missing. And while no one is expecting the police to divulge operational secrets, there is a need for an open police service willing to answer questions.”

George’s latest comments follow the refusal of Police Commissioner Maara Tetava to comment on serious crime issues previously raised by George involving drugs and money-laundering, and the commissioner’s unwillingness to communicate.

In a letter to CINews, George, a former Auckland police officer, strongly criticised the performance of local police responsible for drug law enforcement and expressed his frustration at the commissioner’s failure to talk to him and others on a variety of policing concerns.

He claimed “cartels” dealing drugs in the Cook Islands were taking advantage of poorly controlled borders and slack policing to launder foreign currency here. He said the Cook Islands police were “hopelessly outsmarted” and “severely comprised”. “There are police and customs insiders who leak information to the dealers and are paid for their services.”

Police spokesman Trevor Pitt told CINews last week that rather than replying to George’s many criticisms, the commissioner was focusing on providing an outlook on the police service’s strategic approach “going forward”.

“The commissioner is refraining from responding to each and every one of Norman’s comments for now.” The commissioner’s continuing refusal to communicate with George prompted another strongly worded response, with George noting that when Tetava was asked to return phone calls, he routinely didn’t bother.

“Even his private secretary is difficult to get hold of.” George said the lack of information from the police could easily be solved by the commissioner holding “compulsory” 30-minute press conferences once or twice a week – on Mondays to cover weekend incidents handled by the police and on Fridays to comment on items of interest from Thursday’s court session.

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