LAWFUEL – The New Zealand Legal Newswire – Police have now checked the facts surrounding allegations around armed police involvement with school buses in the Ruatoki Valley last Monday.
The facts are as follows:
• A school bus load of children was not stopped and searched by armed police. A school bus with children on board was escorted through the cordon without boarding or search at the request and in the company of the school principal from Ruatoki.
• A 33-seater Kohanga Reo bus (without any school bus signs) on its way to Whakatane was stopped and searched. No Kohanga Reo pupils were on the bus. The bus contained three people – the driver, a woman monitor and a 14 year old female secondary school student who was being taken to High School.
• The Kohanga Reo bus waited in the queue at the checkpoint. Armed officers approached the driver and advised him that the vehicle would be searched. One officer boarded the bus and asked the three occupants to disembark. The interior of the bus was subjected to a search lasting one minute. Other staff photographed the occupants whilst another searched the exterior compartments before the driver and two passengers were cleared to continue the journey.
• Police have met with the three people on the bus who have verified the facts.
“There has been some unfortunate public comment around the matter of school buses and the exposure of children to armed police in the context of last week’s operation, Assistant Commissioner Jon White said today.
“Police were conducting an operation which involved the arrest of people known to have and use firearms and other weapons, and the execution of search warrants looking for those and other items. All measures taken by Police were designed to mitigate the serious risk that existed.
“Police on the day were acting in good faith and doing the jobs required of them. It was inevitable in an operation of this size and nature in a small rural community that people unconnected to the operation were going to be inconvenienced. The checkpoint was in place for the minimum period necessary, and consideration was given to the effect of our operation on children in that the school bus which clearly had children on board was facilitated through the checkpoint without a search.
“I can assure those who had, as a precautionary measure, their photographs taken with the vehicles they travelled in that those images have been deleted.
“I wish to reiterate that as I stated publicly last week the whole police operation will be fully debriefed and we will reflect on the various submissions made to us.
“Police’s first priority when undertaking operations involving alleged firearms offences is to ensure no-one gets hurt. We achieved that objective last week,” said Mr White.