Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Police State wish list

What cops want: Troops, tasers, tough laws
Tougher bail laws, equipping police with stun guns and boosting frontline numbers are all on the Police Association's election wishlist. In a document released this week, the officers' union spelt out its policy proscription for political parties.
Its priorities include raising frontline police numbers, as well as numbers overall, amending bail laws to reverse changes made in October last year which set a higher threshold for imprisonment and equipping all police with Tasers. They also include giving police the power to take DNA samples from all suspects, introducing a new offence for starting a police pursuit punishable by up to 10 years' prison and forcing phone companies to archive text messages for six months so they can be used in police investigations.
The union also calls for:

* Adequate funding of the Government's new Organised and Financial Crime Agency;
* urgent passage of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill;
* investigation of the effectiveness of British-style anti-social behaviour orders;
* allowing police to issue temporary "on-the-spot" domestic violence protection orders;
* lowering the age of criminal responsibility to bring 12 and 13-year-olds within the jurisdiction of the Youth Court;
* keeping 17-year-olds in adult courts;
* introducing mandatory third-party vehicle insurance;
* raising police numbers to match Queensland's police to population ratio by 2015;
* introducing changes to discourage vexatious private prosecutions of officers;
* giving police automatic name suppression in cases where they are being prosecuted for the use of lethal force.

And so begins the move towards a Police State – can you believe the powers the Police Association want here? Let’s go through the worst elements…

Tasers – the cops have just been proven that they can’t use Pepper Spray properly, why in God’s name would we trust them with tasers? The simplistic argument that a taser is better than a bullet just doesn’t stack up if there is no one policing the use of those tasers, as we have seen in America, Police now taser people for looking the wrong way and get away with it. With NZ lowering the physical requirements for being a Police Officer less confident smaller ill trained cops are reaching for weapons to enforce their authority and that leads to a culture of automatic conflict rather than resolution strategies.

Taking DNA from ALL suspects – how creepy – note you haven’t even committed a crime, you are merely a suspect and the cops want your DNA for mere suspicion, we aren’t talking your fingerprints or photo, we are talking your DNA – the Police have no right to that information unless by your convicted action you give them the reason to take it. Mere suspicion of a crime is not a good enough reason to take your DNA.

New chase powers of up to 10years imprisonment and immediate confiscation of vehicle. Forget the blurring of the line between the judicial and the police, this new power has the possibility now of exacerbating the existing desire to flee and I have great doubts it will convince people to stop fleeing in the heat of the moment. I also think trying to pass this law after a Policeman has died and using that death as the reason is a wee bit disingenuous especially when you consider the majority of those who die are the people fleeing the Police, not the Police themselves.

Adequate funding of the Government's new Organised and Financial Crime Agency, this is a joke and shouldn’t be taken seriously, the old SFO had more powers to deal with organized crime and this entire reshuffle is a farce, as the ex-director of the SFO has already told Parliament, this is a sacrifice caused by fear mongering da gangs.

Investigation of the effectiveness of British-style anti-social behaviour orders – another case of moving the evidential thresholds in this case the cops get powers to move anyone around or arrest anyone who has been given an ASBO, they are the friendly face of British fascism. If you break the law, you should be arrested and you have certain rights, when you have an ASBO, the cop decides if you’ve broken it and you have no recourse to legal rights. Oh and there is little evidence that these things do actually work, so you get an erosion of your civil liberties for no gain.

Lowering the age of criminal responsibility to bring 12 and 13-year- olds within the jurisdiction of the Youth Court – ummmmm, doesn’t this move criminalize children? Don’t we have enough evidence to show that putting kids into the criminal system only results in them becoming bigger criminals? Why do I feel like we are banging our heads against a wall half the time on this?

Oh and finally, with the Police demanding all these new powers and massive erosion of your civil liberties, they also now want to stop prosecutions against their officers and they want name suppression to any cop who kills while on duty, fighting crime in NZ isn’t easy, but unbridled police powers and mass erosion of civil liberties within a system that isn’t independently checked and balanced (the current complaints process is still 85% police investigating police) is no solution. These powers weaken a democracy and build the foundations for a Police State.

1 comment:

shane said...

On the subject of tasers and the power it gives police, my friend and I had an interesting experience while in Montana, USA last year.
I wrote a story about it for a magazine a while ago, I'll post it here for people to read and make up their own mind about them.

George Bush was staring at me. His beady little eyes bored into my skull, accusing me of something - although I wasn’t sure what. His mate Dick Chaney was there too, eyeing me up as a possible target for his next big game hunting expedition.

I wasn’t near the Whitehouse. In fact, I couldn’t even be sure I was in the same country as the terrible twins. I was however in a small, plain white room on the American side of the Montana – British Colombia (Canada) demarcation, as a team of border agents ripped apart our vehicle in search of ‘contraband’ my two fellow kiwi friends and I knew little about. Twin portraits of my infamous buddies adorned the wall above us, next to ominous drugs = jail warning signs. This trip was not going as planned.

What started as a simple jaunt across the border to buy some cheap snowboard gear had definitely hit a snag. As we pulled into the checkpoint, the vicious attack/sniffer dogs had a field day. Our rustily robust 79’ V8 Dodge had been surrounded by guards and our bewildered looks were met with laughs from a jolly marshmellowman-looking officer, who we could tell was really not very jolly at all.

A quick ask-around had confirmed that none of us had any drugs (or at least weren’t admitting to any). After the first 20, 30 then 40 minutes passed I started to feel nervous, especially after we concocted the idea our chronic Quebecois roommates may had left some BC bud rolling round in the back.

Our terror had just increased exponentially after spotting a wolf hide tacked to the wall outside when the officers returned, telling us gruffly that there were in fact no drugs in our vehicle. Freedom. The adrenaline rush was immense, and not even seeing the truck, which had been gutted during the search dampened the immediate feeling.

What we should have realised then was the trip was ill-fated. Turn around now and cut your losses. Unfortunately we didn’t – and the worse was still to come.

Driving through the bleak and sparse winter landscape we soon arrived at our destination, the rather gloomy looking settlement of Kelispell. With a population roughly the same as Timaru, this place was the business end of North West Montana.

After buying our gear, it was almost 6pm. Debating whether to stay the night or drive back, the ridiculous low-price of beer made the decision for us. Yes, it was watery and tasted like dish soap, but my god was it cheap. With a 36 pack of ‘Busch’ in the back, we sought out a classic American movie-rendition motel and got on with the business of forgetting about the border.

Well lubricated on a Saturday night, town was calling so I led the troops out into the heart of cow-town. Only one establishment was open, and what a place it was. A large, rodeo meat market packed with leather, tassel and spur wearing cow-jocks and cow-sluts, gyrating to mass-produced music and slamming back mountains of cheap liquor.

Half an hour of this carnal playhouse was all my friend and I could take, but our other mate – a large, extroverted red-head – was on a role, and insisted he would be fine partying solo.

Stumbling home, we collapsed into our beds thinking little of it – surely big red could look after himself?

A call around four in the morning awoke me from my haze of Busch, and I croaked a harsh hello into the receiver. It was my orange friend on the other line – he was in jail and this was his one call. I can’t remember much of the conversation, but the jist of it came back to me when my mate asked where he was in the morning.

Rushing down to the station, we were lucky it was a Sunday. This is the only day of the week you are allowed to visit prisoners, and we were ushered in along with other girlfriends, family and friends to the visiting area.

It was just like the movies. Rows of see-through cubicles, with a plate glass window and telephone providing communication with our sorry looking friend. Dressed in blue prison attire and sporting perhaps the biggest shiner I’ve seen, the life had been physically and mentally sucked out of him.

We had 45 minutes, and the story slowly came out. When the bar had shut at 2 in the morning, people spilled drunkenly out onto the footpath, slobbering and drooling at each other. Our friend, talking to a bunch of girls he apparently wasn’t supposed to (perhaps a girlfriend or sister, or maybe both) was approached from behind by a cowpoke, spun around and king hit.

Coming to a few minutes later, he couldn’t find anyone who he had been talking to or the rawhide who had hit him, so glumly decided to call it a night and walk home. Rounding the corner, there was the perpetrator laughing with friends. Being befuddled with drink and hoping to restore male pride, he proceeded to walk up and attempt to break the nose of the rawhide. He didn’t see the group of Montana’s finest standing across the street.

Without a word, two taser shots ripped through his jacket, piercing his skin and sending 30,000 red-neck volts of pain coursing through his body. Subdued, he was bundled into a police car and thrown in the cells, charged with assault and resisting arrest (as the cops had used their tasers).

45 minutes was up, and our friend was handcuffed and led away. The officer behind the glass was unhelpful – bail was $2000, and he would have to appear in court Monday anyway. Another night in jail awaited our unfortunate chum.

With a day to kill and spirits low (and we weren’t even in jail!) Kelispell became even more depressing. Seemingly to be populated only by morbidly obese people driving ridiculously large trucks, it was a picture of excess. People drove everywhere, no-one walked. I saw vehicles just idling aimlessly unoccupied, as if it was their right to guzzle petrol. The food was terrible. We survived off greasy service station bean burritos and dank instant coffee.

Monday morning came, and it was spent plodding endlessly back and forth from jail to bail office. By the time we learnt anything, our friend had been to court, and having been given no access to legal advice plead not-guilty, worrying a conviction would affect his Canadian work visa. Bail was dropped to $500, and we rushed off to a cash machine.

Early afternoon saw us sitting on the cold, hard pavement out the back of Flathead county jail. The doors opened and big red emerged, still bright ginger but somehow smaller in stature – you could see first time incarceration had taken its effect.

Without a word we piled into our supposed drug-trafficking vehicle and sped off back towards the land of moose and golden syrup. Crossing back into the north was an immense relief and we resolved never to return, although my friend with his non-guilty plea was in a slight pickle – he had a court date set for a few months down the track to plead his case in.

Land of the free? You be the judge.