Key factors influencing Police response to events near Parliament

As well as peace, public safety dominates the operational approach

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster (INL File Photo)

Andrew Coster
Wellington, February 18, 2022

We are now into the tenth day of significant protest and occupation activity on and around Parliament grounds. The Police response, Operation Oversight, is now a major operation and evolving on a daily basis.

International events

The international environment has been instrumental in informing our understanding of the current occupation and similarly, we have taken learnings from the response tactics employed by other Police services.

In Canada, a lack of unified protest leadership resulted in a conciliatory meeting with Ottawa’s mayor not going ahead, followed by the declaration of a state of emergency and the Canadian Special Forces receiving an injunction in order to forcibly remove trucks and individuals.

The French example comes within a context where protest bans were in place; despite which, a large protest contingent went ahead and the Police response deployed circa 7000 staff, armoured carriers, water cannons, and tear gas.

In Australia, entrance to Parliament was barricaded by Police staff numbering in the hundreds. Canberra has also experienced the erection of makeshift camps (vehicles and tents) in the surrounding area.

Inherent risks

These examples illustrate some of the risks that we face in our response and provide further emphasis for why our commitment to being a police service which operates by public consent and with the confidence of the communities we serve is so very important.

Over recent days we have seen additional protests occur around the country.

Our position, as it currently stands, is what we are focused on: Our position, as it currently stands, is that we are focused on (a) keeping the peace (b) maintaining public safety (c) providing community support and reassurance; and (d) national security and enablement of other local critical infrastructure (including Parliament, the train station and Court of Appeal) so they continue to be able to operate).

We are also, through the great contribution of Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha, continuing to pursue constructive engagement with leaders within the occupation, and advocate for a lawful and reasonable protest.

Police restraint will help calm nerves (BBC Photo)

Police focus areas

We are conscious that participants have a fundamental right to their peaceful protest and are concentrating our efforts only on the elements of the protest which are unlawful and harmful. It is also very much front of mind that there are many vulnerable communities represented within the ranks of the protesters, including children; and that the ongoing presence of the occupation is impacting on the feelings of safety and ability to go on with daily affairs of the local community here in Wellington. Balancing these needs is a delicate act, especially as the situation changes over time.

Andrew Coster is Commissioner of Police. The above is an extract from a communication.

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