What’s Changed?

Records held at Wellington’s Alexander Turnbull Library record:

A grieving father farewells his son

A grieving father farewells his son

“Emmanuel Papadopoulos jnr died of a drug overdose”.      

Three decades on those of us who were there remember it quite differently.

The Police Complaints Authority’s 40 page report published on 9 February 1990, just over a month after “Manny” Papadopoulos was strangled by policeman Paul Berry is a remarkable document and makes it one of the fastest whitewashes in the PCA’s history.  What makes it so remarkable is its arrogance and blatantly pro police viewpoint that is barely suppressed.

Even if you try to read this document from a completely objective viewpoint there are some disturbing trends that remain to the forefront in today’s Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Even in the opening paragraphs of his report Sir Peter Quilliam is adopting a position sympathetic to police by describing their investigation as “thorough and meticulous”.  These were unchartered waters for the PCA as it was the first investigation of its kind that the PCA had overseen.  It appears that Sir Peter Quilliam was anxious to establish a position from the outset.

Witnesses who are unsympathetic to the police at the time are discredited or rubbished and there is a general emphasis on preferring the versions of the witnesses who can help clear the police.  Overall the impression is that from the outset there was a determination to clear the police and that is how the “investigation” was conducted.

The PCA’s investigator was John Roberts who for the duration of his tenure with the PCA maintained a staunchly pro police viewpoint and was renowned for his ability to find in favour of police no matter how overwhelming the evidence was to the contrary.

There was a heck of a lot of background evidence that the PCA refused to look at, perhaps because it would have painted an entirely different picture.  Not the least of these being that the same police officer who strangled Manny Papadopoulos had been hassling him for weeks prior to that night.  This fact alone offers an alternative explanation as to why he ran away when stopped.  In those days the police officer concerned was well known around Wellington as a bully and thug and so it is a reasonable possibility that Manny  Papadopoulos, who was alone in the car, feared for his safety.

Consider also that back in 1989 the police did not become involved in “routine traffic stops” as this was before police merged with the MOT.  New Year’s Eve morning in central Wellington and the police are going to have far more important things on their minds that “routine traffic stops”.  So this is one aspect that just does not add up and has never been explained.  Up until that point it is unlikely that this police officer had conducted a traffic stop in his entire career.

One of the witnesses actually says in his statement that the thought the Sargent wanted to kill Mr Papadopoulos.

Throughout his report Quilliam refers to Mr Papadopoulos as “the deceased” and seems to have forgotten that he is dealing with a human life and the consequences of that being taken.

Read the report for yourself and make your own judgments:

PCA Report – PAPADOPOULOS Emmanuel

How many other historical documents of this nature have been wrongly recorded to distort the truth and give an inaccurate picture of our history?

A Culture of Dishonesty

Mike Oxnam - old school thug

Mike Oxnam
– old school thug

It is often the lament of lawyers working in the criminal jurisdiction that one of the hardest parts about their jobs is dealing with the lies police constantly come up with, often whilst giving evidence under oath.  Evidence they release via the disclosure process is selective and often not a true reflection of the contextual facts.  To describe the police in this country as professional perjurers is not as far fetched as it may seem at first blush.

Government and indeed the police themselves would have the public believe that they are held to account by the Independent Police Complaints Authority and their own internal disciplinary procedures.  The “Independent” part of the IPCA’s name is about as farcical as the belief that our police are honest upright individuals who can do no wrong.  Hardly a week passes when some adverse publicity about the activities of some wayward police officer does not surface.

In reality almost all but a small percentage of complaints to the IPCA are “investigated” by the police themselves and their agenda is always blatantly clear.  That being to protect their own even if this is achieved at the expense of manipulating witnesses and the evidence to paint a picture that suits their ends.

Testimony to this philosophy is that most police treat complaints as an occupational hazard and it is often with pride that some individuals boast about the number of complaints they have had made against them.

All one need do is take a cursory look at the history of some of those who are now in senior management positions within police and it becomes clear that those attitudes and cultures that have helped them claw their way up the ranks are alive and well today.

A typical but my no means isolated example of this is Detective Inspector Mike Oxnam the head of Kapi Mana CIB.  In his younger days Oxnam was not adverse to using his size and bullying tactics to achieve his own ends and there are stories of him beating a prisoner around the head with a telephone book until that hapless individual’s ears bled.  Those who have known Oxnam over decades observe that he was a bully and thug at school and thus the police was a perfect career choice for him.

Now that Oxnam and many others like him have reached senior ranks their tactics and methodology may have changed but the same attitudes and propensity for perjury remain just as dominant.

It is not all that long ago that Oxnam stated to a member of the public that he did not care what laws or rules his staff broke just as long as they got results.  Speaking about one of his then subordinates, Detective Stu Taylforth, he went on to say that he knew Taylforth had told a few lies and broken some rules but that was of no consequence to him because he managed to arrest people. Another of Oxnam’s staff was criticized by a judge when that detective was giving evidence in the Porirua District Court.  The presiding judge told this detective that he did not believe anything he had said.  Police management took no action whatsoever against the detective involved and no doubt he continues lying in the same fashion, secure in the knowledge that his masters support such behaviour.

The country’s police stations are littered with this attitude and as Government continue to give police increasing powers the public need to be alarmed and take a stand.  With the elections looming this is the time to start asking your politicians the hard questions.