New Zealand’s Whakatane police just love inappropriate use of Pepper Spray, is there a systemic problem?

New Zealand’s Herald on Sunday and Sunday Star Times ran stories yesterday detailing yet another incident of police brutality and excessive force.

Both newspapers stories of course utilising the police mantra of “accidental’ around the police’s pepper spraying of a 10 year old child as a so-called “routine” traffic stop.

The Sunday Star Times article was headlined, “Police accidentally pepper spray child”. The Herald on Sunday article below ran on-line with two headlines, the first “NZ police: 10-year-old girl accidentally pepper sprayed”, then subsequently, only a matter of an hour later, changed to Police blame violent dad after girl, 10, pepper sprayed”. Of course that title alteration might just have occurred following a brief telephone conversation with one of the police commissioners spin doctors.

What is also extraordinary is that neither journalist points to the history of this police behaviour, a 2006 police inquiry that had resulted from exactly the same behaviour. Nor did either journalist manage to get their hands on the police code’s and or manuals for the deployment of this particular weapon so as to further interrogate the local area commander fronting the press release:

Police blame violent dad after girl, 10, pepper sprayed

Lynley Bilby

5:00 AM Sunday Sep 13, 2015

Police have apologised for pepper-spraying a schoolgirl in the face while trying to arrest her father.

The 10-year-old needed hospital treatment, including drains fitted to her eyes to flush out the potent mist yesterday.

The girl’s mother Tiwaiwai Teepu last night told the Herald on Sunday Amy screamed in pain as a burst of pepper spray showered her face.

“As soon as it hit her she screamed out ‘I’m burning’,” said Teepu. “When she jumped out she was hysterical and in so much pain.”

Bay of Plenty district commander superintendent Andy McGregor said the girl was “accidently contaminated with pepper spray” just after 5.30pm – and blamed her father Jack “Blu” Kira, who he said violently resisted arrest.

“We’re sorry for the obvious distress and pain this would have caused the girl during the incident and are pleased she is okay,” he said.

“However, had it not been for the actions of the man involved, officers would not have had to use pepper spray.”

The spraying happened during a routine traffic stop. Police said Kira refused to give his details and tried to drive off.

The officer attempted to remove the keys but his arm was trapped when the man allegedly wound up the window.

“As the officer pulled his arm free, the window broke, causing minor cuts. Unfortunately during the arrest, a girl who was in the car with the man was accidentally contaminated by some of the spray.

“It is also sad that she is an innocent victim who has had to witness this incident, which could have been completely avoided.”

A police spokesman said the man was now facing two charges of aggravated assault, and one charge each of failing to stop, and giving false details.

Amy was back home last night recovering.

A family spokesman said the incident had terrified the youngster.

The whanau disputed elements of the police version of events saying the officer took matters into his own hands and needed to be held to account.

Source: NZ Herald

The stories were penned by the New Zealand Heralds Lynley Bilby and Fairfax’s Tony Wall. Of course Tony Wall is the more experienced journalist. What is surprising is that both journalists managed to obtain and use not similar but exactly the same statements from the local District Commander to quote in their respective articles. Fairfax’s article opined:

Police accidentally pepper spray child

The conduct of the Police officers who dealt with Mr Falwasser on 23 October 2006 and who were subsequently charged, was unnecessary, unreasonable, and unjustified.

There was also the 2011 case of another very young child allegedly being pepper sprayed by police officers from the exact same police district, an allegation that at the time did not seem to be taken any further but was at the time reported by local rag Fairfax NZ’s Whakatane Beacon;


Complaint of excessive force following arrest in Auckland (IPCA, 20th August 2015)

Inquiry ordered over police pepper spray incident (NZ Herald May 2006)

Tourist ‘disgusted’ at pepper-spraying (NZ Herald, August 2007)

New Zealand Human Rights Act 1993

New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990

Ramkasoon v Commissioner of Police  ([2013] NZEmpC 147 ARC 60/12)

Falwasser v New Zealand Attorney General CIV-2008-463-000701, [2010] NZAR 445 (HC)

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