Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has defended the approach taken for protesters disobeying lockdown rules, as compliance concerns mount heading into the long weekend.
There are compliance concerns for parts of the country under Alert Level 3 restrictions as New Zealand heads into the holiday weekend.
Over the past week, Auckland police had to deal with protests against the blockade, a blockade violating party, and MIQ leaks.
Coster said Morning report he knew it was “quite unsatisfactory” for residents who had been complying with alert level restrictions to see others disobeying the rules, but maintained that the police’s less confrontational approach was the correct one.
“When you have a thousand people gathered, there is no police tactic that can improve the situation and we have seen that other jurisdictions try to do that and you end up running,” he said.
“It is not an effective way to intervene.”
Coster said several prosecutions had been launched in connection with protests over the shutdown.
“We have been very consistent in warning firstly that protests cannot occur, secondly where they are unavoidable, to make sure they are carried out in the safest way possible.”
The right to protest is protected by New Zealand law and Coster said it was “a really difficult balance” “to understand the interaction between [Covid-19] restrictions and right to protest “.
“We think we have achieved that balance by prosecuting the organizers, especially when they have had every opportunity not to do this activity, but there is nothing really, once a crowd is of a certain size, that the police can do that is not. it’s going to make the situation worse. “
The reason for the restrictions was to protect public health, and Coster said police were aware of that in every situation.
“I think we can see that people are understandably fed up with being locked up and that’s developing in terms of some of the behaviors. I think we need to focus on how well we’ve done and how close we are to being able to transition into something. different and we just need people to hang on. “
When asked about the response to a large party on Auckland’s North Shore last weekend, Coster said that the main organizer of that gathering had been subpoenaed, 11 people had been cited, and police continued. identifying and prosecuting the people who had been present.
“That meeting turned out to be one that was highlighted in the media … obviously, the police cannot be in every home and we continue to depend on people to do the right thing for the well-being of the entire community.”
Mandatory vaccination for considered officers
Coster said mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for officers was being considered.
High-risk workers in the health and disability sector should already be fully vaccinated by December, and school and early learning staff by January.
Police were working with the government and the public service on mandatory vaccination, Coster said.
“We can certainly see the value to our people in terms of protecting their well-being.
“Recognizing also that we go to many places and we do not want the police to be a vector of the spread of the virus, so we are actively considering it, but it will be aligned with what others are doing.”