An independent report into the 2007 Urewera raids has been unable to reconcile the idea that the police could break the law, with all investigators from the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) agreeing that law enforcement authorities cannot break the law, because they are the law.
In October of 2007, police conducted a series of raids in the Urewera ranges, blocking roads and conducting searches in and around the towns of Ruatoki and Taneatua. They alleged that a group of Maori activists from the Tūhoe tribe were running paramilitary camps in the region for sinister purposes. Police sought a series of terrorism charges against the activists, but they were later downgraded to simple firearms charges after a court ruled some evidence to be inadmissible.
The raids proved extremely controversial, with many arguing that the police blew the situation out of proportion and exceeded their legal authority in blocking roads and searching cars that passed through the area.
Numerous complaints were made to IPCA, alleging that the police had acted unlawfully. But in its final report today, IPCA has dismissed those accusations, saying that claims of legal wrongdoing on the part of the police are inherently contradictory and nonsensical.
“The authority finds, without qualification, that there was absolutely no wrongdoing on the part of police in these raids,” said IPCA Chairman Sir David Carruthers. “We have struggled to comprehend the argument of the complainants in this case. It is the understanding of the authority that the police decide the law, and as such it is not possible for them to break it. The police are the goodies. They decide who the baddies are, and arrest them. The police cannot be baddies.”
Carruthers attempted to demonstrate his point with a hypothetical.
“If a civilian breaks the law, then the police arrest them,” he said. “But if the police break the law, who arrests the police? After numerous discussions with law enforcement officials and others, we have determined the answer is ‘No one.’”
Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon that he accepted the authority’s findings.
“Yeah, well, I can definitely see where they’re coming from,” he said. “I mean, you can’t really imagine police handcuffing a constable and putting him in a whoo-whoo car. So yeah, I accept that.”
“I think most New Zealanders would agree that we shouldn’t be putting all policemen in jail,” he added.
But not all were happy with IPCA’s findings. MP and Mana Party leader Hone Harawira said he believed the report was a whitewash. He maintained his belief that the police acted unlawfully in the Urewera raids, and called for their prosecution.
When asked who should arrest the police, he replied “The po– Oh, shit. Okay, I see the problem now.”
While the IPCA report concluded that police cannot break the law, it reiterated that they do still have to obey the Prime Minister, because he is the “big boss” and “runs everything.”