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Intimidation or sheer stupidity?


On Monday, TVNZ's Te Karere programme reported that the Armed Offenders Squad had raided a house in Ruatoki in search for a 'gang member' – the wrong house. They didn't find the person they were looking for and local residents claim that they told the police beforehand that the person had moved on. TVNZ showed images of armed and masked police, of shattered windows, empty tear gas shells and bullet holes. Images taken inside the house show a hole made by a bullet that had pierced the wall from the outside. Judging from these images, anyone standing near that wall would have been hit in the head. Local residents are interviewed and appear shocked and upset. One man speaks of the police terrorising the village.

The story sounds too familiar to be coincidence. The same day the police raided the house in Ruatoki, four people are on trial in Auckland, facing charges of participation in a 'criminal gang'. The charges are the result of the police raids of 15 October 2007, when the same police unit – the Armed Offenders Squad – locked down Ruatoki with a road block, searched numerous homes and kept children locked in a shed for hours while they interrogated their parents.

The parallels are too obvious. The TV coverage contains an image of a t-shirt on a clothesline with the imprint “Remember October 15th”. The image is taken through a bullet hole in a window of the raided house.

The botched raids of Operation 8 in 2007 have now been followed up by a another 'mistake' – a house raided at the risk of killing its inhabitants when, according to the residents, information was available to the police that the wanted person was not even there.

If it is not coincidence, then what is it? Is this the apology the residents of Ruatoki were promised by then Police Commissioner Howard Broad after the raids in 2007? Or is it a reminder to the people in Ruatoki of what the police are capable of doing whenever they feel like it? Or is it some sort of punishment for the fact that the police had to drop the charges against the majority of the people arrested in the so called 'terror raids'?

Of course it could also be sheer stupidity – but that seems unlikely in this case.

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