Tag Archives: Policing

Covid Criminalisation

Angus Lindsay

Although there to protect us, many of the Government’s recent measures have widened the net of criminal justice. When we move into a post-Covid world, we should be critical of lingering policies that may remain.

Because of Covid-19, New Zealand police have been granted what have been described as unprecedented powers under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act (2002), the Health Act (1956) and the Summary Offences Act (1981).

Under these Acts, everyone is to be isolated/quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for ‘essential’ movements. This poses a significant change by temporarily criminalising everyday actions and activities such as exercise, seeing loved ones, road use and travel (except for ‘essential’ purposes), and buying consumer items like gaming consoles or sporting equipment even if contactless delivery is assured (yet alcohol and some designer clothes shops have skirted these regulations).

To ‘protect’ the public, police are able to do “anything reasonably necessary, including the use of force, to compel, enforce, or ensure compliance”. This includes directing any person to stop an activity seen to possibly contribute to the emergency.

Continue reading Covid Criminalisation

‘Plural policing’ should come at a cost

‘Policing’ is increasingly falling to private security and citizen-led initiatives. Yet the wages and the training don’t match the responsibility. So what can we do? 

The popular 2003–2015 British crime show New Tricks, repeats of which appear regularly on New Zealand television, is about a trio of detectives brought out of retirement and attached to a London police squad to help investigate unsolved crime.

It’s an entertaining premise—but it’s no longer as fictional as it once appeared.

Earlier this year, Essex Police advertised for civilian volunteers, including retired officers, to work alongside detectives. This followed the Home Secretary’s 2015 proposal to give stronger powers to police volunteers to take witness statements and even detain suspects.

The reason is austerity. Since 2010, some UK police services have experienced budget cuts of up to 25%. The result has been a dramatic reduction in officer numbers: From 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2017. One MP observed ‘it’s the thinnest blue line I’ve seen in my life’.

Though widely interpreted as desperate populist posturing, Boris Johnson’s promise to recruit 20,000 new officers won’t make up for those already lost, nor the additional number required to match population growth since 2010.

It’s little wonder that many Chief Constables have identified volunteers as a solution. As of July 2018, 40,000 police volunteers were operating in England and Wales, adding an estimated £75-80 million of value.

In the United States, volunteer policing is also growing. There reserve citizen officers operate with full police powers—including authority to use firearms – a practice that can be traced back to the deputising powers of the local sheriff, and which originated in the Posse Comitatus and ‘hue and cry’ of medieval England.

Such developments might sound a long way from New Zealand but in fact are already here—albeit in more limited forms.

Continue reading ‘Plural policing’ should come at a cost

Cops with guns will make us less safe

The new trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury involves sending at least three armed police officers out in patrol vehicles to be constantly available to respond to crimes involving firearms. Currently, police do have armed offender squad officers, but they are dispatched from base to respond to serious firearms incidents rather than being continually present in the community.

The police commissioner has given two justifications for this trial of roving armed cops in cars: community safety and the safety of police officers themselves. The second reason is the real driver, but it will inevitably come at the expense of the first. Cops in cars with guns makes communities less safe, not more. Let’s look at the evidence. Continue reading Cops with guns will make us less safe

Unconscious Bias, NZ Police and Bullshit

This commentary deals with two recent issues that arose in relation to the New Zealand Police (NZ Police): the first is the recent ‘confession’ of the Police Commissioner that some members of the NZ Police suffered from ‘unconscious bias’, and the second is the decision by officials at NZ Police National Headquarters to designate researcher and criminologist Jarrod Gilbert as ‘unsuitable’ for carrying out research because of his gang associations.

The New Zealand Police, Bias, Racism and Bullshit

Humbug: deceptive misrepresentation, short of lying, especially by pretentious word or deed, of somebody’s own thoughts, feelings, or attitudes.

                                                                                                                                Max Black (1982)

According to the American philosopher Harry Frankfurt (2005: 1) “[o]ne of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this.  Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted”. I agree entirely with Professor Frankfurt’s summation of just how much bullshit is spread around, except to add the caveat that some of us contribute a whole lot more bullshit to the pile that invariably washes over the social context. Continue reading Unconscious Bias, NZ Police and Bullshit

Lock ‘Em Up and Throw Away the Solutions

National Party image, [CC BY 3.0 nz], via Wikimedia Commons.
The Prime Minister Bill English equipped himself admirably to well-trodden law and order election politics last week, as he bolstered police ranks by another 1100 officers. This Safer Communities package was dovetailed with strong messages, not least that the world doesn’t owe anyone ‘a living’. Instead, families and communities must ‘continuously adapt’ and resiliently engage in ‘quiet heroism’ as a response to increasing economic precariousness. The expectation is that everyone – including those with health or disability issues – ‘can live independently’.

We are also entering, it appears, a new era of state interventions. Mirroring practices from the late 1950s to the early 1980s – the horrific experiences and legacies of which largely remain shielded from public view – the government is targeting ‘problem’ children and their families for processing. We will deal, once and for all, with the ‘regulars in the government system’. Welfare dependents had better look out, as might our new economic risks: the thousand or so five year olds whose sorry lives are each destined to cost us well over quarter a million dollars. Continue reading Lock ‘Em Up and Throw Away the Solutions