Operation 8: Why were Maori police officers not involved?

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Was it the old old story of ignorance, racism and paranoia as well as incompetence?

Maori police were deliberately excluded from knowing anything about Operation 8 until after the termination phase; that is the armed paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007. Superintendent Wallace Haumaha who until 2007 was the National Strategic Maori Advisor, and is now the General Manager Maori, Ethnic and Pacific Services, was deliberately excluded. His network of Police iwi liaison officers was also deliberately excluded.

Te Putatara understands from sources close to the NZ Police that Commissioner Broad himself approved the decision to exclude Superintendent Haumaha and his teams. The sources also report that Haumaha later strongly objected to his exclusion and demanded and received an apology from Broad.

It was reported that at a hui at Wainuiomata Marae in March 2008:

New Zealand’s top cop also admitted to ongoing differences of opinion with advisory staff over the decision to go ahead with the raids“.

The exclusion of NZ Police’s experts on Maori:

  • Highlights the ignorance, racism, paranoia and incompetence of the intelligence operation leading to the armed paramilitary operation.
  • Led to a deeply flawed analysis upon which the police built their terrorism narrative and convinced themselves that their terrorism scenario was the only possible scenario.
  • Culminated in a hugely over-the-top and over-hyped paramilitary operation that traumatised a whole community and families in other locations, and that is having a lasting adverse effect on children caught up and terrorised in that operation.
  • Led directly to the investigative and legal debacle that unfolded after the paramilitary operation; and
  • It was dumb.

A central principle of intelligence gathering and analysis is a thorough knowledge of the targeted persons, organisations or countries. “Know thy adversary” is a key principle. This principle is certainly understood by intelligence professional Mark Evans who since October 2007 has headed the NZ Police intelligence framework implementation and is now Director of Intelligence. Mark Evans was appointed to implement a professional Intelligence capability, a capability that did not exist before his appointment.

“The better you understand your subject the more likely you can produce material with insight”.

– Evans, R Mark (2011), Influencing decision-makers with intelligence and analytical products” p192, in Ratcliffe, JH (Ed), Strategic thinking in criminal intelligence, 2nd Edition, The Federation Press, NSW.

The principle of “know thy adversary” was certainly not understood by Commissioner Howard Broad, Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope, Assistant Commissioner (Intelligence) Jon White, Detective Inspector Bruce Good and Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe in the intelligence planning (if there was any) and in the intelligence gathering and analysis phases of Operation 8.

In my experience one of the most frequent traps in Intelligence analysis is to interpret information from within one’s own cultural framework and from within one’s own range of experiences.

Competent analysts are those who immerse themselves within the worldview of the target person or persons, or countries and cultures, and are thus able to reach valid conclusions based on their knowledge of the targets’ own worldview; their thinking and motivations. If the analyst does not have that background knowledge he or she must seek it out rather than reach conclusions based on just a limited understanding of the target or targets.

In my own case I spent twelve months totally immersed in the language of a target country learning everything I could about the cultures, religions, mythologies, histories, geography, politics, agriculture, industry, economy, military, police, diplomacy, and peoples of that country. Having become fluent in the language and reasonably knowledgable about most aspects of the country I became an analyst on a country desk. I still needed to keep studying and learning.

Most Pakeha have forever judged and interpreted Maori through their own linguistic and cultural lens, ignorant of the differences between us, although that has been slowly changing. There are now of course, after generations of living, learning and loving together many similarities. But significant differences remain. Many Pakeha still refuse to acknowledge the difference, or if they do, refuse to accept that there should be difference. It’s the ridiculous “one people” mantra. That is perhaps one of the main reasons for the ignorance, racism and paranoia that has plagued Maori-Pakeha relations for so long, and that has long characterised the NZ Police  approach to Maori.

New policies have been introduced by the NZ Police to try to eradicate that racism, or more probably to be seen to be trying. They include cross-cultural education at the NZ Police College and the introduction of Maori responsiveness staff and policies. However the evidence on the frontline is that it is all skin deep and that ignorance, racism and paranoia is as strong as it ever was.

On specialist knowledge Mark Evans wrote:

“Products will be better informed by involving others. A community or neighbourhood profile for example will always benefit from input of those working closest to the problems on the ground. Consultation and taking advice is essential – a computer system and its captured data only contains some of the information necessary for effective analysis”.

– R Mark Evans (2011).

In my opinion the most glaring deficiency in the NZ Police Intelligence information gathering and analysis process leading up to Operation 8 was the deliberate exclusion of the Maori responsiveness team led by Superintendent Wallace Haumaha, and the exclusion of his network of Police iwi liaison officers, from the operation. These are the NZ Police’s experts on matters Maori. The planning and direction, collection, processing, analysis and production processes of the intelligence cycle were thus deprived of the most valuable police resource available to them, and suffered greatly because of it.

It meant that the Operation 8 intelligence team and their superiors ignorantly and deliberately deprived themselves of the opportunity and necessity to “know their adversary”. Their ignorance, racism and paranoia got in the way of their professionalism.

The exclusion of the police liaison network was written about in 2008 by Mr Luke Crawford, a former police officer who served for nearly 26 years. At the time of the Operation 8 raids Sergeant Crawford was a serving police officer. He writes:

“The situation that occurred at Ruatoki would have been handled in a totally different manner had iwi liaison officers been included in the planning and execution of this operation.”

Crawford, L, “Ruatoki, the Police and Maori Responsiveness”, Chapter 4 p110 in Keenan, D, (2008), Terror in our midst? Searching for terror in Aotearoa New Zealand, Huia Publishers, Wellington.

Mr Crawford also wrote:

 “There is still a way to go before there will be full participation by iwi liaison officers and their networks in decision-making at key areas of policing, particularly at the frontline decision-making tables around the country. I know that some police leaders, particularly at the operational level, still struggle to believe that iwi liaison staff and Maori networks can be trusted to participate at these tables. This may be why decision-making around police actions at Ruatoki excluded the Maori responsiveness groups and district iwi liaison staff”.

On p106 he wrote that:

“At the strategic and governance level of policing, the Maori responsiveness team is led by Superintendent Wallace Haumaha of Te Arawa.”

Mr Crawford does not state that the operation would not have been mounted but he does confirm that the NZ Police Maori responsiveness team and iwi liaison staff members were not part of the operation.

The information that Superintendent Haumaha and his Maori officers were deliberately excluded was obtained from reliable sources close to the NZ Police. The sources also confirmed that former Commissioner Howard Broad was party to the decision to exclude Maori officers.

Mr Crawford went on to write:

“I cannot help but turn to incidents such as Ruatoki and wonder how differently things might have turned out had the staff making the decisions understood more about Tuhoe and Rua Kenana. I have always maintained that no one cares more about Tuhoe more than Tuhoe themselves. The failure to involve the wisdom of appropriate Tuhoe leaders towards what occurred at Ruatoki has proved harmful for police, as the condemnation from Tuhoe and other significant Maori leaders continues”.  p112.

Mr Crawford goes further than I, in writing that wise counsel should have been sought from within Ngai Tuhoe as well as from the iwi liaison staff.

The only conclusions that can be reached are:

  • That the deliberate exclusion of Superintendent Haumaha showed a lack of trust in Maori police, including Superintendent Haumaha, by the Police executive, and indicates an element of racism in the whole process; and therefore;
  • That the intelligence operation leading to the paramilitary operation was tainted by that mistrust, and by ignorance and racist attitudes from the very beginning.

The alternative conclusions are:

  • That the NZ Police believed that Superintendent Haumaha and his network of Maori police officers were not sufficiently professional or competent to be involved in Operation 8; or
  • That the analysts involved in Operation 8 (i.e., Detective Inspector Bruce Good and Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe) were already highly knowledgeable about matters Maori and about Ngai Tuhoe, and did not need or would not benefit from Superintendent Haumaha’s expertise. And that is a ridiculous and laughable proposition.

I reach these conclusions based upon a simple axiom in Intelligence work; that you always seek out and use the most expert and reliable resources available.

Mr Crawford writes:

“So I am not critical of the execution of the operation but rather I am critical of its planning, particularly in so far as a valuable resource within policing, in the form of the iwi liaison network, was not utilised. I know from the phone calls I received following the operation that many of the iwi liaison network were of a similar feeling, with many wondering why we have built up such a external network amongst Maori if they are not used on occasions such as Ruatoki”.

I go further than Luke Crawford. I am of the opinion that as Operation 8 was an intelligence led operation the Maori responsiveness team and the iwi liaison network should have been involved at a every stage stage. It should have been involved in the planning and direction (if there was any), during the collection, processing, analysis and production stages of gthe intelligence cycle, and certainly in the testing and critical evaluation of the intelligence produced.

The anlaysts involved did not even consult their own Maori colleagues to translate and interpret the small amount of Te Reo Maori they encountered. They used an outside translator/interpreter instead. If I were Superintendent Haumaha I would consider that to be a display of racist contempt.

Those Maori officers would also have been able to use their own reliable networks to gain information from a wider variety of sources than was possible without them.

I have read my way through volumes of Operation 8 interception warrants and applications for warrants. In almost every instance the police stated in their affidavits that surveillance by interception was the only viable means of obtaining the information they were seeking. Yet the most valuable intelligence resource they had available to them, Superintendent Haumaha and his team of Maori officers, was not only not used, but was deliberately excluded.

Without the inclusion of that critical resource the intelligence collection and analysis process leading to the Operation 8 raids was bound to be deeply flawed from the very beginning. One can only conclude that the ignorance, racism and paranoia that has characterised police intelligence over many decades also characterised Operation 8.

On 23rd May 2013 Radio Waatea reported:

“The commissioner of police, Peter Marshall, is defending the decision to exclude police iwi liaison officers from the planning of the 2007 Tuhoe raids.

The Independent Police Complaints Authority has slammed the way police set up blockades and detained people in the Ruatoki valley, but considered there was a case for leaving some of its most experienced Māori staff out of the loop.

“Mr Marshall says the team investigating alleged military style training camps in Te Urewera, thought it would be counter-productive to involve the liaison officers.

“Using the old adage, whether they are the poacher or the gamekeeper – they are either on one side of it or the other. They would have been compromised in terms of ‘why didn’t you give us a warning this was happening or why didn’t you tell us what was happening? So in hindsight, six years after the event, the decision was made with the best interest of those iwi liaison officers at heart,” he says.

“Mr Marshall says while he appreciates people caught up in the road blocks were traumatised, such trauma is an unavoidable part of major investigations”.

That is patronising and highly insulting to Maori police officers and shows that the present Police Commissioner is no more suited to holding the office than his predecessor.

We have it on good authority that Superintendent Haumaha did not agree with his exclusion, nor did his network of police iwi liaison officers. And we have it on good authority that Superintendent Haumaha was quite upset by his exclusion. As shown above their exclusion was a major factor leading to an unprofessional and incompetent intelligence operation.

Marshall’s excuse is just more of the spin surrounding the denials and cover-up following Operation 8. It is unfortunately just another example of the total inability of the NZ Police Executive to admit any wrong unless and until they are forced to, and to descend into denial, cover-up and spin when they have stuffed up.

And Operation 8 was a stuff up of monumental proportion. In a truly transparent and accountable democratic society the senior officers responsible would have been dismissed. And perhaps they were, eventually, by not having their contracts renewed, and perhaps that was part of the cover-up.

Links: The Operation 8 Series