Despite being remarkably quiet throughout a spate of serious police controversies, Police Minister Judith Collins has finally risen to the challenge of leadership over the so-called Boy Racer issue.
Collins has suggested crushing the impounded cars of those deemed to be acting like ‘Boy Racers’ in reaction to a Christchurch incident last week when a group of said racers attacked a police patrol car en masse. The Herald reported John Key’s support for the idea, and oddly pulled from their website a story published earlier that day focussing on Collins’ more hardline stance on the issue (very obliging of the Herald to help National better coordinate their more inconsistent and mis-timed media releases). Elsewhere it seems Key is feeling a bit cautious about his Minister‘s reactionary approach.
The idea isn’t new, they’ve been crushing ‘Boy Racer’ cars in California for some time now. But you have to wonder about the imperious symbolism of Collins declaring a desire to ‘crush’ these cars and ‘inviting their owners to watch’. Many of these cars are worth a lot of money – why not sell them and donate the proceeds to the Fred Hollows Foundation? Why just crush them for more scrap and landfill?
Sure the Christchurch incident was serious and indefensible. A group of people attacking a lone individual probably always is. But taking this kind of approach isn’t going to improve relations between police and young men who are obviously very emotionally, perhaps even irrationally, attached to their automotive personality extensions. Collins’ Crush Policy might well increase dangers for police and will likely dash any remote hopes of cooperation in the future. But Collins knows she needs to appear to be tough and she needs to be seen to be doing something after her enduring inactivity since becoming Minister of Police. Threatening a demonized out-group like hot-rodders with populist draconian sanctions fulfils that need perfectly.
No word from Collins yet on where all this might end up though. This year the UK is set to crush 2 million cars impounded just because they’re not insured. I wonder how popular that’d be here for a government that reckons it’s all about reducing the ‘Nanny-State’ and keeping its hands off people’s private property?