Whānau want Police held accountable for pepper-spraying incident

By Mere McLean
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty

The family of a 10-year-old girl who was accidentally pepper sprayed by Police last Friday in Whakatāne while trying to arrest her father say they want those involved held accountable.  Police have publicly apologised for the incident but the family believes it’s not enough.

The girl’s mother, Tiwaiwai Teepu (Tūhoe, Ngāti Manawa) says, "The constables involved were warned we were in the car, you know, her papa (father) was saying his daughter is in the back, her mum's here."

The spraying happened during a traffic stop which occured a few metres from the family’s home.  Police said the young girl’s father Jack “Blue” Kira refused to give his details and tried to drive off.  

However, Tiwaiwai Teepu explained that the exchange between the police officer and Blue became heated because he refused to give his name.  Teepu says that the police officer smashed the window in order to open the car door it was during this time the young girl was contaminated by some of the spray.

Teepu says, "We were in the vehicle.  He had locked himself in, holding himself back and resisting getting out of the vehicle under what conditions because he didn't give his name?"

The family say they have been targeted by Police because of Blue's beliefs on Māori independence.

In a statement by Police, Bay of Plenty District Commander Superintendent said: 

"We're sorry for the obvious distress and pain this would have caused the girl during the incident, and are pleased that she is okay." 

But stressed that had it not been for the violent actions of the man involved, officers would not have had to use pepper spray to protect themselves.  Now the family wants an apology from the Police.

Blue says, "If they didn't initiate the violence first and assault my daughter then I would not have acted out of character and got angry."

Blue is now being charged with two counts of aggravated assault, one of failing to stop and one of giving false details and will appear in the Whakatāne District Court on Wednesday.

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