No justice for victims of police brutality

- Alastair Reith

On June 25th, a white jury in Tauranga found Police Sergeant Keith Parsons, Senior Constable Bruce Laing, Constable John Mills and Sergeant Erle Busby not guilty of brutally assaulting Rawiri Falwasser, a young Maori, in October 2006.

With police like these, who needs criminals?

Rewi Falwasser suffered a mental breakdown on Labour Day 2006, and was not in control of his own actions. This is accepted by the police. He was arrested after stealing a neighbours car and driving erratically, endangering both himself and other people on the road.

The police took him to Whakatane police station, and put him in a holding cell. When they later came to remove him from the cell and take him to be photographed, he refused to leave the cell. According to Crown Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch, Mr Falwasser was “stressed, confused and agitated”.

Following Falwasser’s refusal to leave the cell, Sergeant Parsons repeatedly sprayed him in the face with pepper-spray, and when he put up his hands to protect himself from this attack Parsons lashed out at his head with a baton, striking him on the hand and the wrist and leaving him with a 6½-centimetre cut to his arm.

Falwasser tried to flee from the attack, and as he did so Parsons hit him in the back of the head with his baton, leaving a five-centimetre gash.

Sergeant Parson eventually left the cell, which had by this time become filled with pepper spray, making it “intolerable for police officers”. Presumably working-class Maori are more able to tolerate having their cell filled with pepper spray than policemen are.

The cops continued to spray pepper spray through the vents into the room, despite Falwasser’s efforts to block them up with his clothes. He was bleeding profusely, and says that he “feared for his life”. He wrote the word “Jesus” on the wall in his own blood.

Family reacts with scorn and anger

The victim’s family reacted angrily to the court’s decision. His father Charles Falwasser labelled them “vermin” and “lower than the low”. The victim’s mother Kihi was “shocked and devastated” at the verdict, but said she was “not surprised”, as “We had a white jury in there… we live in a black-and-white world.”

Get tough on crime = get tough on poor brown people

This case proves the existence of racism and class prejudice in the New Zealand judicial system. It is highly unlikely that Rawiri Fulwasser would have been violently attacked in the brutal manner he was subjected to if he had been a white and middle class. The four police officers, all of them white, reacted more violently towards a man with brown skin, and felt more confident that they would get away with it. As this verdict shows, their confidence was well placed.

When violent crimes are committed by young, working class Maori in South Auckland, the response is a frenzy of calls for extended police powers and tougher penalties for violent criminals. Where are those calls now? Why is it that when white police officers brutally assault a young Maori man who doesn’t come from a wealthy background, there is no chorus of angry voices condemning their actions?

It seems that the cops were right to be confident - the New Zealand ruling class protects it’s own. “Safer communities together”? Yeah right.

5 Responses to No justice for victims of police brutality

  1. anthropologus says:

    with all respect, Mental Breakdown is not an acceptable psychological understanding and should not be tolerated regardless of reason. If the issue is Police brutality, I am 100% with you but I won’t buy the poor and sick “minority” discrimination argument.

    The man commited a criminal action and has been overdone by stressed policemen. Both sides were wrong.

    Police (and not cops) are necessary for the safety of the common good. Crimes are not tolerated.

  2. Tim B says:

    But if there is no racism in the criminal justice system, how do you explain the mass outcry over the death of Liam Ashley (from a respectable white middle class North Shore family) in the back of a prison van in 2006, which led to calls for the resignation of the Minister of Corrections, while the *deliberate* shooting of Steven Wallace in Waitara in 2000 and the now the beating in custody of Rewi Falwasser both barely seem to raise an eyelid?

  3. anthropologus says:

    good point.
    I haven’t said “no racism” in the criminal justice. I said that Rawiri Falwasser (of which the last name gives the indication of Western descendant) has committed a criminal act and not target because of his ethnicity. I also believe there was abuse from the police, but because he was Maori is speculation.

    Steven Wallace was holding a machete and charged the police officer. Steven Wallace on doing so, committed a crime and become subject to punishment (however, not death). He died because of Police lack of proper training of which, is a directly consequence of a lack of need and updating with the emerging crime rates (funny enough, since Labour ascended to power). Liam Ashley died because his parents abused of the legal system to teach the boy a lesson (instead of home or a boot camp) and placed the individual under threat. Parents fault.

    The reason why there’s a larger outcry from the white population rather than indigenous is quite simple (Daphna as an Anthropologist could answer that).. is called Unity. The Indigenous population is not united under the same cause if there’s no beneficial gain of the majority. sad but realistic.

    The Pakeha side is united against crime not because they are Pakeha but because they are Kiwis in general of which include different ethnical groups. The Maori of the XXI century decided that is beneficial to distinguish themselves of the Kiwi label for specific reasons of gains. To remove the ethnical argument of the picture, we can find the same power of outcry and action among Hindi and Asian communities. They are united under the same ideal (of eliminating violence) and no other beneficial gain. No accusations towards the Police for these groups… Ask yourself… why?

    Q: Is the Police Racist? No. But there are racist individuals within the corporation, both Maori or Pakeha.

    If the article is about Police violence… Well done. If it is about “another minority” target, I disagree but valuate your opinion… Even if not, consistent.

  4. aroha says:

    Police Violence is plainly not exceptable no matter the level of stress they are under. I fully support the mother of Rawiri Falwasser. In A sense that these kinds of things arent always publically displayed and yet it happens sooooooo often.The scenario were prisoner(we call it “act a fool”)and police need 5-6 officers to calm the situation then it end in severly hurting the prisoner because of STRESS never should be exceptable and all officers that commit such abuse should be never allowed to work with such authority again.

  5. George says:

    I think police dont giv 2fuks bowt da brown minority or as dae wud call us black bastards. I wud lyk 1 of dm racist kunt 2walk down a dark alley in my hood so we cn whoop da sht out dat bitch or bitches da more da fukn merrier. Punk bitch snitches get stitches!!!!!!

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