Image: Cam McLaren/Getty Images

‘Inappropriate’ police social media posts criticised by Children’s Commissioner

Police social media posts showing children being arrested have drawn the ire of the Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft and Green MP Golriz Ghahraman.

The Children’s Commissioner has criticised police and media organisations following widely shared social media posts showing the arrest of three children in Auckland yesterday.

“We are concerned with posts by police and now media outlets regarding the pursuit, which used a helicopter, of three children,” Judge Andrew Becroft said on Twitter

“These photos may breach the children’s legal right to privacy. The nature of this story is inappropriate regardless of the job that police have to do.”

The posts, shared on the New Zealand Police Facebook and Instagram accounts, since removed, showed two 14-year-olds and a 13-year-old being pursued by the Eagle helicopter across a mudflat on Auckland’s North Shore. A second photo displayed the youths handcuffed and covered in mud, attended by at least four police.

“Police were looking for a 14-year-old who was allegedly breaching his bail conditions, he was spotted with two other males near Larking’s Landing,” the police posts read. 

“The 14-year-old has tried to go into the water to evade capture by swimming to a boat however Eagle helicopter used their Rotor wash to force him back onto dry land where a Police Dog unit was eagerly awaiting them.”

It is unclear whether the use of rotor wash is a legitimate policing technique. Police allege the youth was in breach of bail conditions and found in possession of tools including a screwdriver and gloves with which to steal cars. He has been charged with disorderly behaviour and possessing instruments for conversion. Another 14-year-old and a 13-year-old have been referred to Youth Aid. 

Green Party police spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said dealing with courts and police is recognised as a source of trauma, and special care must be taken when dealing with youth offenders as demanded by both UN convention and the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. 

“Appropriate processes includes respect for the special privacy rights of children,” she said. “Youth Court proceedings don’t allow public attendance or cameras, for example, because of the known long term trauma caused to children through that kind of negative attention. 

“We know the majority of young people in our justice system already suffer mental health issues, trauma, and cognitive diversity that makes that kind of breach even more harrowing for them. If the aim of our justice system is to hold young people accountable while ‘acknowledging their needs, giving them the opportunity to develop in a responsible, beneficial, and socially acceptable way’ which is what the law requires, then the course of action taken by NZ Police, including posting video footage of the young people, was a gross breach.”

The police have previously faced criticism over their use of social media, with some arguing their posts paint a misleading picture of the realities of policing in New Zealand.

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Police social media guidelines prohibit posts which conflict with organisational messaging, operating style, or bring police into disrepute.

Last month, a 24-year-old man drowned in the Tarawera River in Kawerau following a police chase.

The Spinoff has approached the NZ Police for comment.


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