Kawhia cop may quit town

A lone police officer attacked in a small Waikato village is considering his future amid fears for his wife and young children, a friend says.

Alan Rutherford, a long-term Kawhia local and a close friend of Constable Perry Griffin, said the constable was recovering with family and was assessing his future in both his job and his hometown.

He said it was unclear whether Mr Griffin would return to work as there were concerns for the wellbeing of his wife, who also works locally, and their two children aged 5 and 2.

"The sad thing will be if this forces them out of our community," Mr Rutherford said.

A community meeting heard last night that Mr Griffin was the third police officer to be assaulted in Kawhia around Christmas in the past eight years.

Calls were made for a second police officer, an extended liquor ban, more work programmes and events, and better parenting and guidance for the area's youth.

Resident Bernard Hutchison said the youth were bored and had no self-respect. "On New Year's Eve I saw 13-year-olds pissed out of their brains."

The mother and wife of the father and son charged over the alleged assault told the meeting she had lived in the town for 16 years. Her son had grown up there and her husband worked as an engineer before a car accident.

"I'm not here to defend, justify or excuse any of the behaviours, actions or events of that night, but rather to give a face and a voice to two men, a father and a son, who have been portrayed as gutless, lowlife mongrels."

Another local, Bill Devoy, blamed older people for supplying the youths with drugs and alcohol which led to parties and violence.

One woman said she had witnessed a gun fight outside her house where her seven children live.

A farmer said he was constantly burgled but his family remained because they lived in "paradise".

There was talk of setting up a youth forum and installing Maori wardens. But all agreed Mr Griffin was a much-needed and respected officer who they want back. The Kawhia and wider Waikato communities have rallied to help Mr Griffin and his family. Fundraising has started to send them on a holiday.

Kawhia community board chairman Hano Ormsby told the Herald before last night's meeting that there was overwhelming support for Mr Griffin. But the issue was a difficult one for locals, many of whom are related to the arrested men.

"It's probably a bit of that it's probably split down the middle because there are views that are for and against what has happened here," he said.

- James Ihaka and Natalie Akoorie of the NZ Herald

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