Waikato police say information from the public helped them identify a man who allegedly assaulted a Kawhia officer.
Last Friday, sole charge officer Constable Perry Griffen was beaten and stripped of his pepper spray, Taser and pistol by a group of people as he tried to arrest a 19-year-old man wanted on warrant.
Griffen is the town's only police officer.
Today, Inspector Paul Carpenter said the identity of an attacker
has been established thanks to the public's response for
information in the media.
"Inquiries in relation to formally establishing what role this person played in the attack are continuing and this identification has been as a direct result of assistance provided by the local community," said Carpenter.
Carpenter said police have now withdrawn charges against a 21-year-old man arrested near the scene of Friday night's attack as a result of information received from witnesses and other inquiries.
"In addition to the support from locals, the inquiry team have been buoyed by the support shown by visitors who were in the area at the time of the attack and it is this combined community support that is making all the difference as the inquiry continues," he said.
Meanwhile, a public meeting will be held in the Waikato harbour town tomorrow night as concerned residents hit back at increasing drug use and violence they believe is "seeping into town".
The gathering was called after an emergency meeting of the town's community board yesterday in response to the "deplorable and cowardly attack".
Fire service comes to the rescue
The New Zealand Fire Service said today that it is "very rare" for police to ask for a volunteer fire brigade to go to the assistance of a police officer.
The comment comes after Kawhia volunteer firefighters were called to assist Griffen after he was assaulted.
The officer activated his Officer Safety Alarm during the
attack, but police were still some distance away and the local
brigade went to the scene.
National Operations Manager, Assistant National Commander Stu Rooney, said this type of request is made only once or twice a year, and only in rural communities where additional police assistance is not immediately available.
Rooney said firefighters are not police officers and have no powers of arrest.
"They respond as any member of the local community would and do their best to calm down the situation and provide a neutral presence.
"Four people in yellow bunker coats turning up with an appliance
can give those involved in an altercation something else to think
about. Being local people they are also able to use their
relationships and friendships to help settle a situation
Kawhia Chief Fire Officer Callan Stewart said he and the six other members of his brigade who responded to the local police officer's call for assistance on Friday evening did their best to calm people down.
"We knew we were under no threat and people realised we were there to help them and so they were quite receptive."
Police say Griffen is recovering well and is currently on recuperation leave.
He has reiterated his thanks for all the messages of support and his wish for his privacy to be respected.
Meanwhile, the attack has sparked renewed calls for police to be armed, however Police Commissioner Peter Marshall last night called for "cool heads and calm minds", saying he did not support an escalation of firearm use by the police.
"The safety of police staff is our highest priority and our focus is on providing officers with the tools, training and support they need to do their job safely," he said.
Friday night's attack is the second on a Kawhia police officer in just over five years.
In 2007 former Kawhia Constable Craig Blakely resigned his post after he suffered cuts to the face and head when he was stabbed by two men on New Year's morning.
Yesterday Kawhia resident Leigh Baillie said the town did not want the same thing happening to Griffin.
"He has been the best cop we have had here for ages," she said.
The Kawhia police officer patrols a big area around Kawhia and Aotea Harbour that extends to Marokopa in the south.
Baillie said one officer was not enough.
"He should not be here on his own," she said, "How can one person do that? That's crazy."
Kawhia has a resident population of 650.