Police are investigating three “incidents” which have delayed renewal of Takitumu volunteer police constables’ warrants, says Prime Minister Henry Puna.
The warrants expired on May 24 and have led to reduced police presence in the area, causing a spate of crashes and problem drivers, residents claim.
Puna, who did not specify the incidents, said they involved the Takitumu volunteer police group.
He added the incidents could impose some liability on the government and the police.
However volunteer officer Alistair Macquarie said he was only aware of two incidents where a police officer supervising them had been present.
The incidents had happened after the volunteers’ warrants had expired and in one case, a police officer had been involved, he claimed.
In Parliament last week, Henry Puna said the investigation process should be allowed to take its course.
“It would be wrong of the police commissioner (Maara Tetava) to proceed to renew the warrants without knowing what the full implications of those actions might be on the police and the government,” he said.
“And I would add it would also be highly irresponsible of Takitumu to insist that something be done to renew those warrants while this question is still pending.”
“My request is to allow the process to take its cause and if there (should be) improvements in the appointments of these volunteers, that needs to be identified and put into place. But we cannot and should not go ahead and renew the warrants while these issues are still outstanding. That’s my official position as head of this government.”
Alistair Macquarie said the volunteer group acknowledged the process and the concerns of the government and the police.
He said the volunteers had always strived to carry out their duties with caution and were disappointed with the way police had handled the issue.
Macquarie claimed police had left them “in the dark” over the matter.
“We have given up on it (the warrants); we have other things to do.”
Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said the volunteers had begun contributing to road safety checks and traffic matters before they were actually warranted.
“The warrants eventually lapsed, but the commissioner thought the volunteers could have continued in some way to work closely with the police. But the police were constrained in any event, due to a staff availability issue.
“Currently, the commissioner is wanting to strengthen the Vaka presence with some adjustment to the supervision (of the volunteers),” Pitt said.
Ngatangiia MP Tamaiva Tuavera, who raised the issue in Parliament, said police should renew the volunteer constables’ warrants so that they could help with patrols and checkpoints in the village during the busy festive period.
Meanwhile, without a warrant, officers Macquarie, Tai Nicholas, Sonny Williams, and Alfred Rere don’t have authority to test drink-drivers and make citizens’ arrests. All they can do is drive around the district to make their presence felt. Earlier, Macquarie said the volunteers had started the group because they wanted to keep their village safe from road accidents.
Police minister Mac Mokoroa said police were looking at appointing more full-time officers as well as appointing supervisors for the volunteers.
From November to May, the Takitumu volunteer constables set checkpoints at each end of the district. They dealt with 1300 cases involving drink drivers and people driving without registrations or licences, or failing to wear safety helmets.
Macquarie said their presence had made an impact, as drivers appeared to take more care.