Association defends police

Chris Cahill
Chris Cahill says while the actions of ''bad eggs'' marred the reputation of Southern police, it was not indicative of the quality of officers in the district. Photo: ODT files
The Police Association has defended Southern police following revelations an Invercargill officer racially abused an Asian security guard in Queenstown during a drunken night out - the latest in a chain of incidents blighting constabulary in the South.

Police confirmed this week Constable Jason Te Huia is subject to an internal police investigation after pleading guilty to using insulting language - a charge stemming from a racist exchange in Queenstown last year, in which he told a Korean man he ''smells Asian like a dog'' and had ''shoelace eyes''. He remains employed on restricted duties.

Const Te Huia was discharged without conviction in May.

It is the latest incident to damage the reputation of Southern police.

Dunedin Constable Jeremy Buis resigned this month before facing formal action after leading a two-year-long harassment campaign against a Dunedin businessman.

There are investigations into another Southland officer accused of sending inappropriate messages to a woman who sought police assistance, and an Otago officer accused of an off-duty assault.

And murder charges have been laid against Invercargill Constable Ben McLean after the death of his estranged wife, Verity Ann McLean (nee Barber).

Police Association president Chris Cahill said while the actions of ''bad eggs'' marred the reputation of Southern police, it was not indicative of the quality of officers in the district.

''Percentage wise it's no worse than the rest of country, other than there's been a spike of unusual ones or newsworthy ones,'' Mr Cahill said.

''It doesn't reflect the quality of the people down in the
Southern district.

''They would be embarrassed about what's happening, as anyone would.

''The officers that have stepped out of line are a disappointment to them.''

His comments came a day after Southern district commander Superintendent Paul Basham defended the district's officers when it was revealed Buis had resigned this month after remaining on paid leave since February 2015.

Supt Basham slammed Buis' actions as ''disgraceful'' and said the majority of staff worked ''hard every day to provide a quality service to members of the public''.

The ruling of Judge Alistair Garland, released to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, revealed Const Te Huia's offending.

Const Te Huia verbally abused the victim after he and an associate were denied access to the Sky City Casino because of their intoxication about 1.45am on September 3 last year.

The associate argued the pair were not too drunk to enter the premises, but when the victim and two other security staff would not change their position he turned to leave, the judge's decision said.

''The defendant, who was standing at the top of the stairs, began to abuse the victim in a racial manner,'' it said.

Const Te Huia told the Korean security guard: ''I can smell you.

''It smells Asian like a dog.

''You have shoestring eyes.

''I see you have no shoestrings in your shoes. Where are your shoestrings?

''Shoelace eyes. Slant eyes.''

After yelling the abuse at the casino staff member, his associate convinced Const Te Huia to leave.

''When the defendant was asked for an explanation for his behaviour, he stated he recalled being at the casino and yelling at the door staff but he could not recall the words that he used ... because he admitted to being pretty drunk and only had a partial memory of that night's events,'' Judge Garland's decision said.

''He said he was both ashamed and remorseful for his actions.''

Const Te Huia had not previously appeared before the court and was granted a discharge without conviction.

The reasons for that decision were withheld.

It is understood police opposed the diversion.

When contacted, Const Te Huia said he did not wish to comment at present.

Supt Basham told the ODT he expected the internal investigation into Const Te Huia's actions would be completed soon, and he remained on restricted duties while it took place.

''We hold our staff to a high standard and expect them to model our police values through all parts of their personal and professional lives,'' Supt Basham said.

''We hold our staff to account for their behaviour.

''The employment investigation process is ongoing and I expect this will be finalised in the next month.''

timothy.brown@odt.co.nz

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