Friday, May 15, 2009

You and whose army?

No Right Turn has been asking questions over the use of the Light Armoured Vehicles in the Napier Siege. While it's a common expression in NZ to "call in the army", there are very serious and explicit rules limiting the use of the armed forces in civilian situations. Search and Rescue this wasn't.

The NZ constabulary has many tools at its disposal, the Armed Offenders Squad and the Special Tactics Group among them. Calling in the army a la Sleeping Dogs requires the approval of the Prime Minister or a vote in parliament. According to the reply I/S received today, neither occured. The police under National have broken a big constitutional separation:
The Prime Minister did not provide a written authorisation under section 9 (4) of the Defence Act 1990, as he was not requested to do so by the Commissioner of Police.

Prime Ministerial approval is only required under section 9 (4) in cases where an emergency cannot be dealt with by the Police without the assistance of members of the armed forces exercising the powers that are available to constables.

The situation in Napier was dealt with by the Police and at no time were members of the Armed Forces required to exercise powers available to constables. Accordingly, there was no need for the Prime Minister to provide authority.

LAVs were called in. I doubt anyone outside the NZ Army is allowed to drive one of those things, for third party insurance reasons if nothing else. The NZ Army had set up base in Napier to oversee its deployed arsenal. I would be very interested to know what the chain of command looked like over the period, especially since the Independent Police Conduct Authority will not be investigating.