Racism: The missing word in the IPCA report
Yesterday’s Independent Police Conduct Authority report was surprising in the extent of its condemnation of the police’s actions in relation to Operation 8 – the so-called ‘anti-terror’ raids of 15 October 2007.
The 80-page report calls the police’s actions ‘unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable’ some 77 times. It says that the police intimidated people, arbitrarily detained them and repeatedly violated their rights.
The IPCA’s report, however, does not say the glaringly obvious, the word on the tip of everyone’s tongue: racist.
The police operation was an example of extreme racism in two respects: 1. the basis of the investigation and 2. the execution of raids in Ruatoki and elsewhere.
The IPCA has vindicated the police’s investigation saying that it was justified. It is unclear on what information this is based, except the police themselves. Perhaps the reasoning used is that because criminal convictions were secured against four people that justified the 2-year-long operation and 7-year-long court proceedings.
The basis of the police’s investigation was an existential fear of tino rangatiratanga. The Special Investigation Group was charged with ‘monitoring radical groups’ into which they catagorise anything to do with Maori aspirations for tino rangatiratanga. The consistent surveillance of Maori activists such as Taame Iti was the start of Operation 8.
This is borne out by an examination of some 40,000 pages of police disclosure, the seizure of everything from Robert Tuwhare’s film Tuhoe: a history of resistance to children’s Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe t-shirts to the Ao Café webserver which hosted millions of bytes of information on all aspects of Maoritanga to the investigation of Tuhoe land ownership and whakapapa.
Ultimately the police went looking to find terrorists. They found old firearms and evidence of people throwing beer bottles at an old oven in the bush. This is the basis of the convictions. Even one of the loosest and most poorly written laws – Section 98(A) Participation in an organised criminal group – didn’t stack up in court.
The operation ultimately was conducted illegally. The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that “In circumstances where the police officer in charge of the inquiry knew that there was no authority to be obtained for such filmed surveillance, the deliberate unlawfulness of the police conduct in the covert filming, maintained over many entries and over a period of some 10 months, is destructive of an effective and credible system of justice.”
It never says in the Supreme Court ruling that the unlawful trespass onto Tuhoe land happened because police had no regard for the private property of Maori, but at the end of the day, that is precisely the situation. The hot-shots at Auckland Metro Crime thought they were onto a major indigenous terror plot and weren’t about to let a little issue like the rights of some poor brown folks get in their way.
As for the raids on the 15th of October 2007, the IPCA report goes some way to explaining the poor relationship between Maori and the Crown going back generations. But the report never suggests that the police hierarchy made grossly racist assumptions in Ruatoki. They assumed that they couldn’t trust the local Maori liaison cop because he was Tuhoe. They assumed that everyone in Ruatoki was a terrorist or at minimum a terrorist sympathizer. They assumed that no one would care that a small Maori community had been invaded by a paramilitary force once their terror plot investigation finished. These assumptions point to a police force deeply steeped in racist ideology.
As Emily Bailey has noted in her statement, an “apology too full of excuses and too late” doesn’t change that.
The existing police force in this country is not fit for purpose. Continuing reports of over-representation of Maori in the so-called ‘criminal justice system’ is evidence that after more than 170 years of colonisation, racist New Zealand flourishes.