By Paul Kench, the Canterbury Police crime services manager (officer in charge, CIB) at time of February 22, 2011 earthquakes
Christchurch – In retirement, I’m reluctant to join the social media world as a commenter, informed or otherwise, however for my own peace of mind I’ve decided to record some of my thoughts, relating to the sickening and fatal events at the Christchurch Muslim mosques last Friday, March 15.
All our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, families and the whole community at this time.
I was privileged in my final years of police service to have significant exposure nationally and internationally to the inner-most workings of the complex worlds of intelligence gathering and investigations in the counter terrorism (CT) space.
I’m not a fan of the labelling definition types of offending as the reality is much of it is straight out criminal behaviour.
Script writers prepare decision-makers with a series of complex scenarios for training and exercise purposes and having been subjected to this in the past.
I have always expressed my opinion that one day New Zealand would be a target for terrorism. The magnitude and scale of what occurred in my own city last Friday has staggered me the most.
Like most New Zealanders, I could only watch and observe on television as events unfolded, albeit with an in-depth knowledge of what would be occurring from the ground floor front line response, to the highest levels of what would be happening at ODESC, which is a secret group which forms at times of national crisis.
Immediate coverage illustrated the danger of the speculative experts and a range of commentators articulating a sound bite or headline that was given as a statement of facts, unchallenged.
The danger is that much of that speculation will be untrue and not factual, however in the minds of those listening opinions formed creating rumours that will not be debunked even once the facts fully emerge.
Media interviews with so called experts and other commentators who feel obliged to comment on areas beyond their stations and subject knowledge are extremely unhelpful and dangerous.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by knee jerk reactions as commentators offer solutions to any manner of issue when the actual problem isn’t defined with any accuracy or proper analysis.
One illustration is uninformed commentary about any potential watchlist. We don’t live in utopia. A watchlist isn’t the panacea that guarantees evil things will be stopped or won’t occur.
Even if someone ticks off some boxes and is on a watchlist, we don’t live in a society whereby law enforcement can automatically remove that someone.
Defence lawyers make their livelihoods on challenging law enforcement policy, procedure, guilt or innocence of their clients, always arguing their client would not conduct themselves in any manner the authorities may be arguing.
There is a reluctance to blame individuals for their own actions. Blame must lay with someone else or some other factor not the individual themselves.
A lone wolf is someone who operates on their own accord, whatever may be occurring in their own mind, sound or otherwise. If the lone wolf doesn’t share their thoughts and actions with someone else the likelihood of any future planning or activity is most unlikely to reach the ears of anyone else and be uncovered.
The key components of any terrorism assessment are the intent and capability of the offender (s). Without one the other won’t happen.
It’s much easy to join the dots after the event and if authorities aren’t aware of something as illustrated above, they cannot magically join those dots unless the subject is a target. In the complex variables of the human mind there is no accounting for pure evil.
The major takeaway for me is that in response to Friday’s events, New Zealanders should be very proud of the New Zealand Police. I know that I am.
The fact that despite the carnage and whatever comes from the background of this evil perpetrator and despicable human being, who has tarnished the name of my great city, was in custody and alive within 36 minutes from when his attack commenced.
Commissioner Mike Bush has shown incredible leadership and public reassurance in that he leads an organisation of many good people, who know what they are about and who will get to the core of what occurred and the why, without speculating but by relying on facts.
Footnote: Paul Kench is a retired NZ Police Detective Superintendent. He had qualified in Australia as a Counter Terrorism Senior Investigating Officer.