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Issue No. 399 February 2016

Legends! Patience pays at TPP demo

Police staff held the line with dignity and tolerance.
Photos: Senior Constable Steve Smith and Constable Alex Stammers, Auckland Forensic Imaging

Thousands of protesters, hundreds of Police staff – and no arrests.

Operation Buccaneer, the policing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) protests in Auckland this month, was a victory for professionalism and tolerance despite sometimes extreme provocation, says operation commander Superintendent Richard Chambers.

And it isn’t just police saying it – as one protester wrote in a Facebook message: “I am hugely opposed to the TPPA, but I’m also hugely thankful that we live in a country where protest can happen with minimal injury and harm to protestors. Thank you for being amazing NZ Police. Keep being legendary.”

An estimated 5000 people – 15,000, say some activists - gathered in central Auckland as ministers from 12 nations signed the TPP at Sky City. Some protesters confronted police lines and blockaded roads including motorway on-ramps, at one point running on to the motorway itself.

Richard says it was one of the proudest moments of his career as staff dealt with “a fast-moving and fluid situation, with multiple disorder events” happening simultaneously.

“The professionalism you have all displayed has been outstanding,” Richard said in a message of thanks to staff. “I know many of you have had to stand and remain vigilant in the heat, have been subjected to vile behaviour and have faced this with competence and dignity.”

Richard says the problems lay with small groups that split from the well-behaved majority. “We could have started arresting people early in the day for their behaviour but we were in it for the long haul.

“Our preferred approach was to negotiate with groups, monitor them closely and take affirmative action when needed. We were ready for every contingency but didn’t have to deploy all our options.”

Buccaneer’s planning and execution involved around 500 staff from districts, service centres and Police National Headquarters (PNHQ). Frontline staff came from around the country, but mainly Metro Auckland, with support including Maori Wardens.

Deputy Commissioner National Operations Mike Clement, who watched from the Auckland DCC, says the national nature of the protest movement made the DCCs and NCCC integral to the deployment.

“There was a strong focus on Auckland, but not exclusively,” he says. “Through National Tasking and Coordination we could plan for and maintain a line of sight across everything, deploying our resources accordingly.”

He says command centre technology improves decision-makers’ and observers’ view of the situation, providing a clear appreciation of what frontline staff are facing.

“It was an outstanding success and a measure of the growing maturity we have around the deployment model.”

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