Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Police Powers? You have got to be joking me!

Police bill labelled 'draconian'
A bill extending police powers to spy on suspected criminals and conduct some searches without a warrant is "draconian" election-year pandering, says a civil rights watchdog. The Search and Surveillance Powers Bill, tabled in Parliament by Justice Minister Annette King yesterday, seeks to reform the laws and transfer powers from the Serious Fraud Office, which will soon be disbanded, to the police. Among several controversial proposals are the ability to search without a warrant in certain cases, detain people present at a search and access someone's electronic information remotely. New Zealand Council For Civil Liberties chairman Michael Bott questioned the bill's arrival so close to an election. "It appears to be another macho lurch to the Right by a government attempting to pander to the law-and-order debate in a very simplistic fashion at election time."
The proposals include: The ability to apply for a search warrant electronically or verbally.
A power for police officers to search without a warrant where they think evidence of a serious crime could be endangered in the time it took to get a warrant.
Power to declare an area a crime scene and ensure evidence is not hidden or destroyed while a warrant is secured.
Power to detain people present or who arrive at a search until it can be determined whether they are involved in a crime.
Specific powers for officers to access and copy material held on computers or data-storage devices.
Permission to remotely access computer data in limited circumstances.
Provisions on warrants for placing surveillance devices, including the ability to enter property to place the devices.
The removal of a need for a warrant for surveillance devices in certain circumstances, such as public areas that are already under surveillance.

More Police Powers? Tell me this is a really bad joke, you can smell it’s election year with Labour playing to the ‘lynch-em-high’ brigade by whistling a merry jig of macho raw meat chewing laws from banning gangs to the capitulation of accountability in the Policing Bill by handing all power for career advancement within the Police directly to the Prime Minister.

This new punch to civil liberties allows the Police to break into your home – WITHOUT A WARRANT – and plant secret spy cameras to record you in your own home, until they gain enough evidence to convict you of something. This is arming the police with fishing expedition tools and with a complaints system that can only handle 30% of cases independently you had best hope the media pick up on your story of Police abuse or you’re screwed.

Handing over powers where the Police can access your electronic communications remotely is effectively state sanctioned electronic hacking into your privacy and giving Police discretion to search without a warrant if they think process will slow it down is just a glowing neon sign declaring ‘Open to constant and unrelenting abuse’.

The other major issue will be how the SFO powers will be interpreted by a Police Department that has always pushed for powers to trump our right to silence, watch how they will twist a unique power that was only ever supposed to be used against corporate power into one that will be used against citizens. Here's how the argument will run, ‘Gangs are organized crime, these no right to silence powers are used against organized crime, we now have the power to question anyone we define as in a gang with no right to silence powers. Not a gang member? Don’t care? Well once any group of citizens rights are breached it is only a matter of time before those breaches are taken across the spectrum to all citizens.

Seeing how the Police Bill was rammed through without any changes other than denying the Police the ability to become a political party (a direct threat to the Party’s themselves so that decision was no surprise), my fear is that these new Police powers will be rammed through again with zero discussion and further major erosion of our civil liberties will occur unheralded as the forces of state power continue to grow.

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