Police Association urges caution over publication of Taser camera footage
The Police Association has appealed to media outlets to show judgement and fairness if they publish Taser camera footage from a recent trial of four Hawkes Bay police officers. The officers were acquitted of assaulting Gregory McPeake by using either a police Taser as a weapon, or assault using a police dog as a weapon.
The Napier District Court has granted TVNZ, Fairfax and NZME access to the footage, subject to a number of conditions.
Association President Chris Cahill asks the media concerned to heed Judge Cooper’s warnings about fair and contextual use of the material.
Mr Cahill says he would be alarmed if the footage was used to essentially “trial by media” the Hawkes Bay officers.
“It is vital to remember that the actions of the officers were fully tested in a court of law, and the decision from that trial is the most informed. The jury considered all the evidence – including the footage Judge Cooper has agreed to release - and took little over an hour to acquit the officers,” Mr Cahill said.
Mr McPeake died during the arrest process but not as a result of the actions of the officers, and Mr Cahill says the Association is very aware of the distress caused to Mr McPeake’s family.
“I am therefore very concerned that the Taser footage the wider public will see captures only a few moments of a difficult, protracted and ultimately tragic night’s events,” Mr Cahill said.
“Context in such situations is a serious issue. It is up to the media to ensure they follow the Judge’s directions on this matter. Context means the Taser footage must not be isolated from everything the police officers were confronted with that night,” he said.
Mr Cahill welcomes the ruling of Judge PW Cooper in granting the application in which he advised media to report this matter accurately.
The Judge said “media will need to provide a context which, to be fair, balanced and accurate, would no doubt include matters leading up to the use of the Tasers and the police dogs and the fact that Gregory McPeake’s death, if referred to at all, was not caused by the officers’ actions.”
The Judge went on to say that “having presided over the trial, I can say that it is incontrovertible that the officers acted in good faith and any suggestion otherwise would be highly actionable.”