Armed police act over Dunedin chemical smell

A chemical smell sparked an armed police callout in Northeast Valley yesterday afternoon.

Detective Senior Sergeant Malcolm Ingles, of Dunedin, said a government department staff member called police after smelling chemicals and experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes and nose, after visiting a house in Crown St.

Police took all the precautions of a house containing a methamphetamine lab.

The armed offenders squad evacuated two men and a woman from the house and blocked off nearby roads. An ambulance, two fire trucks and another appliance with decontamination gear waited on Northumberland St.

After a couple of hours, police confirmed there was no meth lab and could not explain the smell.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

Look at the picture, read the article

MikeStk:  The caption reads 'wait after being evacuated". It doesn't say anything about being guarded or detained at gunpoint. Evacuated is also the word used in the article.
Maybe they were removed from the house for their own safety so they didn't suffer a burning sensation in their eyes and nose. After all, protecting the public is a job of the police, and these people are obviously public.
Have a look at the policeman in the photo - he is looking down the street in the oposite direction to these people, and doesn't appear to be showing any interest in them at all.  Are you suggesting because he is also in close proximity to the bald guy in the foreground that this person is also being "detained at gunpoint"?

 

Perspective wrong

The people who "wait after being evacuated" outside 27 Carr St are hardly being "detained at gunpoint" by the policeman standing in the gutter of Paris St some 20 metres away!

Read the article

Silentlord: have you looked at the photos accompanying this article, in particular the one showing a policeman with a gun guarding 3 people - if that isn't "detaining at gunpoint" I don't know what is.

Are you serious?

@MikeStk: Reading through your comments on this article, I can't help but wonder if you mean what you're saying, or are just play devil's advocate (look up 'trolling' on Google).

But, lets take your arguments at face value.  Firstly, you cried foul at innocent householders being arrested and detained at gunpoint, when neither of these things happened.

You then advocated sending in a chemist, pretending to be a Jehovah's Witness.  Setting aside the PC brigades' outrage if that were to happen, I'm honestly not sure that sending a civilian posing as an evangelical christian to knock on the door of a potentially explosive (literally and figuratively) house is such a great idea.  Right up there with investigating a gas leak by candlelight.

So, once we set aside those arguments, we are left with the plain fact that, at some point, a police officer will have to, essentially, knock on the door.  Now, police have to, are morally and legally obliged to, take into account the safety of the public as well as themselves.  That dictates the armed response.  I doubt they were running around all 'adrenalined up'. And I believe they are trained to know the difference between someone sweeping a floor and someone trying to shoot them.

Look at all the crap the police have to put up with, the number who've been beaten and killed while on duty, and then tell me you begrudge them taking all reasonable safety precautions. [abridged]

Common sense

I didn't say that the police shouldn't investigate. What I said was that they shouldn't all ninja up and go in without investigating first. It seems to me, as we saw a few years back up in Tuhoe country, that the police like to occasionally dress up and shove people around.

While I'll readily agree there are perfectly appropriate places and times for them to do that, "a bad smell" is not enough evidence by itself - and in New Zealand, just as you don't hold busloads of kids at gunpoint, nor do you hold innocent homeowners the same way in public in front of their neighbours. Or exhibit them in the paper suffering that indignity.

If you're stupid enough to start running around all adrenalined up with guns because you heard someone smelled a bad smell you may also see someone with a pointy broomstick sweeping the floor and take a quick shot. This is how tragedies happen - people don't use common sense and  jump to conclusions.

Really?

So you're suppose to just let "smelling chemicals and experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes and nose" slide without a second thought?|
I dont think so. You take precautions as this person did.

 

Send in a kiddie selling raffle tickets

Google "p-lab explosions" and you'll find one reason police take suspected p-labs seriously, e.g. New Zealand's first meth-lab fatality occurred in May 2007 when a 33-year-old man died from burns from a P-Lab explosion at Te Hana, north of Wellsford." here 
Search for "p-lab poisoning" and there are results like this: "P labs give home owners toxic shock here Saturday May 30, 2009. Cooking methamphetamine produces highly toxic ..."

The sight of police all aggro'd up to deal with a group of protesters is one thing; seeing them take precautions to deal with what could be a P-lab, going on the information they had received when they set out, is something else, something I have no problem with. 
The first man out of the car could, in these cosmopolitan days, rule out curry and get back into car to return to normal duties and a nice cuppa.  Chemists - pharmacists - are not on standby to go on sniffer duty. Most these days get their drugs ready-made from Big Pharma so the local pharmacy may be able to supply someone who can tell Elizabeth Arden's Red Door from Issy Miyake's newest fragrance at one sniff, and that is not enough to rely on in an emergency. 
P-labs operators, the smart ones, can vanish at a hint of unwelcome visitors. Besides is it fair to send in untrained Jehovah's Witnesses or JW impersonators into a situation where if there is a P-lab operating? Whoever is at home is by definition not a law-abiding character, and at that moment he has a lot to lose. [Abridged]

Very wrong

But unless they have some specific training a "government department staff member's"' opinion of a smell is no more useful than that of any other member of the public. Working for the government doesn't give you special super-powers or extra senses - in fact, this particular official's opinion was obviously very very wrong on this subject, and maybe they did use too much chilli in that stew.

Read the story

MikeStk you need to read the story agan and possibly a bit slower...

Someone (a government department staff member) had visited the house and had cause for concern. In my opinion the police then did the right thing and took correct action to protect the public.

They are hardly going to call a chemist and ask for them to pop on over and smell the house.

Yes this is Dunedin, but don't be so naive to think meth labs dont exist here.

A little sanity

Of course they have a choice. Have a chemist come and analyse the smell - maybe s/he'll say "they used too much ammonia on the floor" or "wow that really is a strong curry".
Knock on the door, pretend to be there to read the meter or act as someone from the Jehovah's Witnesses - don't just go off all half cocked with masked ninja gunmen crawling through the neighbour's gardens just because you burnt the stew.
This is Dunedin for heaven's sake - not exactly known for its plethora of meth labs. Just because the police have scary dress up clothes doesn't mean they have to use them without a little care and thought.

 

Police hardly had a choice

So, the police are informed of a stong chemical, that caused a  "burning sensation in their eyes and nose" coming from a residential house.  One of the possiblities they would have to consider is a meth lab. 

Form that point, all their actions were largely pre-determined responses.  Ie; armed police, fire and ambulance staff present. 

Detained, I'd hope so.  At that point, they hadn't ruled out a meth lab, so what should they have done...?  Let them shoot round to the shop to buy a pie?  There was no mention of anyone being arrested.  The pixelated photo shows no handcuffs. 

Perhaps MikeStk would prefer a friendly, unarmed, officer to simply knock on the door and politely enquire whether the residents are manufacturing meth?  I wouldn't put my neck (and life) on the line just to avoid the risk of offending someone.

Safe to say your comment would be different

Safe to say your comment would be different if the homeowners turned out to be armed and paranoid methamphetamine producers?

Over reaction

Surely the headline should be "Police arrest and detain innocent homeowners at gunpoint because of bad smell" - the news here is the police's overreaction and poor judgement, not the bad smell.

Exhibiting innocent people being held in our streets at gunpoint, even with their faces pixelated, and revealing where they live is also just not on.

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