Previous readers of this site will be aware that I’m not a particularly enthusiastic supporter of the police. I’m more in the order of regarding our current police of a necessary burden on society that could do with having considerable improvement.
Much of the time the police do a competent job on anything that is relatively simple. Individually I find most members of the police that I come in contact with are dedicated to their work and the protection of all citizens.
However there are exceptions, and the current police structures seem to allow some outright nutters ability to cause unfettered and frequently unlawful mayhem under the cover of ‘order’. I always remember a member of the police trying to use personal details of my nieces diary seized in a search warrant for a peaceful animal rights protest to try to deter my sister from pursuing a complaint to the IPCA about handling of the search on a minor.
I think that their organisation as a body is still the archaic militia that formed back in the 19th century, and often still seems to live in that era. It is an organisation that even its most ardent supporters could not claim has a high degree of coherence. The separation of the police into fiefdoms by region and function seems to act as a filter to allow some serious and often dangerous differences in practice.
Leaks of sensitive data seem to be endemic. Police information regularly leaking to private investigations like that run by Thompson and Clark for the benefit of industry groups, companies, and state owned enterprises. About the only thing that is brighter in this area is that the police appear to have started to clamp down on some of it leaking to criminals. While conversely the police appear to treat any investigation into their operations as being intrusions into their private world.
The only point that I happen to agree with for the current opponents of the proposed gun registration legislation is that the police have been really bad at managing such tasks in the past. There have been massive discrepancies in the handling of information and the methods of operation across the various forces. It is hard to see much in the police that would indicate that it won’t happen again.
One of the primary issues with the police is their view of constructive criticism and civilian oversight. They simply don’t listen to or deal with complaints. It doesn’t matter if they are pointably directed to by judges, or on rare occasions by the ‘Independent’ Police Complaints Authority (who get the groups of police to run their investigations on their own group members) or even dragged into court and lose cases (think of their losing streak with Nicky Hager for instance).. Well at best they will issue a meaningless apology after wasting considerable amounts of taxpayer money – and then ignore any lessons learnt.
You can always tell a stupid organisation. They’re the ones who can’t change.
The NZ police have been like this from the first time I dealt with them. Laying a complaint after the springbok tour in 1981 – where apparently the badge number I saw behind the assaulting baton in Auckland was in Christchurch on that day. Yeah right – that really flew as an explanation to the young soldier that I was then. I was trying to deal with what appeared to me to be a assault and riot by police inflicted on a peaceful protesting group who’d done nothing but destroy their voices over many hours.
All the way to my recent bout of jury service 40 years later, I’ve been puzzled by the many police actions. This was a case where I couldn’t see any positive evidence about a parents involvement in a suspicious death of an infant apart from some pretty but useless medical statistics (sample sizes in handfuls). There was no other corroborating evidence despite a pretty extensive investigation including some highly intrusive surveillance.
Somehow the police and crown prosecutors seem to have forgotten that their job was to prove an unlawful behaviour beyond reasonable doubt. It wasn’t up to the defense to explain something that may simply be an unusual, it was up to the police and prosecution to prove an unlawful death. I went all the way through the prosecution case trying to see why in the hell they’d brought the case to trial and left not knowing. It resulted in a hung jury after 4 weeks with two jury members deferring to the authority of medical and police opinion and the rest of us unable to convict on the evidence presented.
On the way through the last 40 years, I’ve seen some awful losing streaks in court with police bringing charges against social activists. Usually with the police only won after they managed to drag status hearings out long enough to the point where it became a choice between attending court or earning a living. It appears to be the legal tactic of choice by police, and one that earns them no respect.
On the other hand, I still treasure the memory when I saw two police from Avondale station who followed a suspicious trail of blood through our apartment block to find a bag of leaking soup bones.
Or letting police into our building at 3am in the morning to execute a well-informed search warrant on a drug dealer and then following the subsequent court case.
Or after 1999 as the police numbers got lifted after Nationals daft cost-cutting was eliminated and police finally started to attend basic thefts in our building and trying to solve them rather than just giving a complaint number for the insurance. The sense of relief from members of the police and our apartment community was palpable.
I know nothing about this new commissioner of the police apart from what is in the government’s press release.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced the appointment of Andrew Coster as the next Commissioner of Police.
“Andrew takes up this leadership role at a time when the Government is making our communities safer by adding 2,000 new police officers to the frontline and reforming gun laws to stop firearms from falling into the wrong hands,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“I know he’ll lead a team of 13,000 people across the country with positivity, inclusion and integrity.
His CV looks interesting with time not only in the police but also in other parts of the justice system.
“He rose to Area Commander in Auckland City Central before becoming the District Commander for the Southern Police District in 2013.
“On moving to Police National Headquarters in 2015 he was Assistant Commissioner, Strategy and Transformation. Before taking up his current role, he was Acting Deputy Commissioner, Resource Management.
“He has been a Solicitor in the office of the Crown Solicitor in Auckland, and more recently was seconded as Deputy Chief Executive at the Ministry of Justice,” Stuart Nash said.
But I really just wish that the police organisation would start to learn how to improve their organisation so that I could actually start to learn to respect them.
I don’t expect that a single person at the top can do that easily because the police still operates like discrete militia forces that it formed as back in the 19th century rather than a single coherent organisation. The differences in operation between parts of the police even within Auckland are often quite startling.
But even some incremental improvements across the national organisation so that they could be trusted with running a coherent national weapons register would be an improvement and a pointer to future organisational development.