True Crime New Zealand Style


We found this series on Netflix called True Crime. True stories dramatized, not documentaries. Very well done, thoughtfully written, we’re a fan/

But we saw this one called Siege the other night and we were both appalled.

It’s about a 50 hour standoff between New Zealand police and a maniac with a dozen guns.

Thing is, they’re proud of how they handled it. But my wife and I are Americans and we were tearing our hair out from Minute 15 on.

The episode begins with a sententious onscreen statement that “New Zealand is not a gun culture, and we will never be a gun culture.”

An awkward introduction to two hours of the sorriest police work you’ve ever seen or heard tell of.

This miserable 50 hour standoff would never have happened here. It would have been a simple takedown of a choleric pot grower, wrap him up, cuff him, put him in the cruiser, and next task please.

But we’re in New Zealand. We send three unarmed officers with a warrant to look for marijuana in a private house in a suburban neighborhood. They are admitted to the residence by the woman of the house, who generously shows them the abundant growing room off the main hallway. There’s a knock at the door. A seedy customer who is ushered in and told to sit down. Then another face at the door, the husband returning home. He is aggressive from the outset and no attempt is made to subdue his obvious ire. At this point everyone is in the smallish living room, three police officers, the wife, the customer, and the angry husband. Where, in NYC, the story would have ended. Two officers to shove the husband against the wall and place him safely under arrest.

But we’re in New Zealand, you see. The husband strides right past his wife, the customer, and the three police officers and goes sprinting down the hall, only to return in a moment with a high powered rifle. Which he uses to order the police officers out of his house. They stand there trying to reason with him until he actually cocks the rifle prefatory to shooting them. At which point the unarmed officers leave the house.

We could still have been good, right? Scuttle out of the house, get into the cop cars, and go blistering away, calling for backup. Right?

But we’re in New Zealand, under the command of what the final moments of the episode would deem as the sharpest point of the spear of New Zealand policery.

So what do you do when you’ve just been run out of the house by a man with a gun and an overflowing rage against cops. Well. If you’re in New Zealand, you three unarmed police officers stand around in the front yard debating what to do next.

Which is when the shooting starts. All three are hit in a matter of seconds. And the Siege has officially begun.


In New Zealand, the bravest people are middle aged men and women, who defy gunfire to help the injured and trapped. The police, on the other hand, are very good at cowering and obeying the order not to shoot under any circumstances. Two thirds of the way through we are informed by chyron that 62 shots have been fired. Those of us who were counting already knew that none of those shots was fired by a police officer. They were busy doing their procedural thing. Yapping into walkie talkies, reassuring the Command Center that they were not planning to shoot anyone today, and explaining why it was so impossible to rescue the dead body of the best police officer in New Zealand. For 50 hours.

One officer did shoot, twice, when a gun barrel poked through an open doorway aimed at other officers. He put two rounds through the door and was immediately withdrawn from the field to report to the New Zealand version of Internal Affairs. Then he was told he couldn’t return to the field because if he fired on the offender again he could be charged with manslaughter.

Heard enough? They tried mighty hard to talk the perp out of committing suicide, but he was clearly bored at not being in an American cop movie and offed himself.

There was a huge funeral, bagpipes, and tears. End of episode. One dead hero cop, one dead offender, who might have gotten seven years in prison if he’d lived. Why bother?