Police censoring research

Written By: - Date published: 1:17 pm, November 25th, 2015 - 24 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, police - Tags: , , , , , ,

Researcher and award winning blogger Jarrod Gilbert lit a fire under the police this morning:

Dr Jarrod Gilbert: The police have deemed me unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals

Sitting in front of me is a 20-page document. It’s my police file. It doesn’t say much, because 17 of those pages are completely blacked out.

I requested my file because I’ve been deemed by the police to be unfit to conduct research – I’ve been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It’s also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my “association with gangs”. This association won’t surprise many people: I did New Zealand’s largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world. …

Researcher on gangs censored by the police because of – an association with gangs. That is ludicrous.

Gilbert has embarrassed the government before and is no stranger to being attacked. He was the victim of a dirty politics hit from David Farrar. But the attack on Gilbert is part of a bigger picture, as quickly became clear in follow-up coverage from David Fisher:

Revealed: The police contracts ‘shutting down debate’

The contract which police make academics sign to access research data contains conditions which are increasingly found across the public service, says the union for the tertiary education sector.

NZ Tertiary Education Union president Dr Sandra Grey said she believed the conditions, which were attached to academics accessing publicly-owned data, were being created because of the potential for political discomfort.

“Government departments are very sensitive to what headlines look like – as are ministers. It’s shutting down debate,” Dr Grey said.

The Herald revealed this morning that a police contract governing the access of data used for academic research was conditional on police having a “veto” power over the outcome.The contract also forced academics to give police a draft of the final research in case of “negative results” and to then work with researchers to “improve its outcomes”.

The full document is include in The Herald piece, some highlights in tweets below. There has been widespread condemnation of this contract and police conduct (including, to his credit for a change, from David Farrar). Well done to Dr Gilbert and The Herald for bringing it all to light.

24 comments on “Police censoring research”

  1. Patrick 1

    Jarrod is apparently only asking for non-identifiable data.
    If this is not routinely published by the Police but collected by them then surely it is open to OIA requests.
    A request for information such as this isn’t “research” per se but….. a request for information.
    Surely the Police can’t deny requests because of who is making the requests and how they “think” it might be used.
    The whole purpose of the OIA is to make information available, even if that information doesn’t make organisations look good.
    How the requestor uses that information is up to them and they will be judged by the nature, quality and veracity of how it is employed.
    The Police prove time and again that they are expert manipulators of information: at times they freely reveal details of crimes when it suits them but are very tight lipped at other times (and not always for appropriate legal reasons).
    Now, it appears, they apply this selective approach more widely.
    Waiting for Greg O’Connor to surface with some inane defense.

    • weka 1.1

      +1. The thing that stands out for me is why the NZ Police act differently from other branches of the government. But then we know that other departments hold information that isn’t available via OIA and you have to pay to access it eg LINZ.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        If NZ Police act differently from other branches of government, I should bloody well hope so, in that democracy is best served when they are entirely independent of government.

        I expect the courts to keep them within the law. Fingers crossed 😉

  2. RedBaronCV 2

    Just who do the police think pay their wages, we the taxpayer. They work for us.
    We have a vested interest in open discussion of how they are doing.

  3. JonL 3

    Well, that’s it! I’m not ever going to co-operate with the Police again!

    They associate with criminals!

  4. Sabine 4

    ahhh, can we say “Banana Republic” or is that premature?

    And are we all feeling ‘served and protectred’ and to we feel like we have ‘safer neighbourhoods’ and such?

    And how much taxpayers money did the police pay out again to people whom were aggrieved by the Police? Oh yeah, they would not care, its not their money.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      ahhh, can we say “Banana Republic” or is that premature?

      That pretty much became true when National got voted in.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Simple fact of the matter is that no government department should be able to refuse academic research.

  6. savenz 6


  7. Sky 7

    Someone should interview academics (and church ministers) about what they have experienced in their investigations into the fishing industry. About time the Police were subject to a little ethnographic research. Jarrod?

  8. vto 8

    1930s Germany

    Not just in the USA

  9. miravox 9

    So there is an agreement that must be signed to ensure Police come out clean in any research based on police data and police will ‘blacklist’ researchers who don’t sign the contract or portray the police in a negative light.

    The Police Minister won’t comment because it’s and “operational matter”

    It seems a bit more like citizens rights, academic freedom and abuse of power matters to me. Things the Police Minister should be very vocal about.

  10. AmaKiwi 10

    Wow! The police are really scared!

    I remember a Minister of Police (Richard Prebble) boasting that our police had a superior rate for solving crimes BECAUSE the NZ public co-operated with them so enthusiastically.

    It’s a descending spiral. The police act autocratically. The public cooperates less. The police are endangered because they are no longer trusted. It’s lose – lose – lose.

    This cycle needs to be stopped ASAP.

  11. whateva next? 11

    “McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”

  12. Incognito 12

    Why are we surprised? Under this Government transparency, accountability, and highest standards are just empty words that are aimed to lull us into a false sense of confidence and trust.

    As long as the Government controls the data and information – does OIA ring a bell? – it controls the (political) narrative and framing of what is going on in our country.

    It goes well beyond complacency because this Government actively and deliberately creates and cultures an environment of secrecy and obfuscation – does TPPA ring a bell?

    In this environment DP thrives! And what’s it all about? Power!

    Fortunately, it appears that some folks working for the MSM seem to have had a change of mind regarding the ‘memo’.

    Personally, I fear this Government much more than being blown up by a suicide bomber …

    • North 12.1

      Excellently put Incognito.

      Moreover, as if Power were not enough, it is also about an Immature Peacock, Celebrity, Strutting, Display…….and fashioning Gauche and Illiterate as the New Black.

      Oh silly me……have I forgotten the primary belief of Muddle Nu Zilind ? That obscene wealth quantitative or qualitative or both, expunges without trace patent character defect.

      Standards ? Pfft ! Disastrously there are none anymore. The fish rots from the head.

  13. Vaughan Little 13

    dark and dirty. policing means nothing without integrity.

  14. Daniel Cale 14

    I’m confused. I had reason to request my police file, and received the entire file, including notes on an offence I committed 4 years ago but for which I was not charged. It even had information about a crime I was a witness to and testified in court. The only reason I could envisage the police would be justified in withholding material to the individual concerned is if it revealed the identity of persons under protection. Otherwise how do we correct material that could be false?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.1

      The charming naivety of the authoritarian follower.

      • North 14.1.1

        You characterise Daniel Cale well OAB.

        Reminds me of when my niece, partner and baby were quite callously used and abused by an employer armed with the 90 day law. An employer whom we later discovered had practised form in the artifice licensed him by said law. All the more repulsive in that it involved accommodation as it had previous victims.

        “But that’s just not right…..it’s unfair……those poor kids….. !”
        cried several Key fans within the family, distressed.

        “Hello……what have I been telling you about your idol ?”

        As the family member judged best able to “do something about it……” I was gratuitously saddled with that responsibility. By the very enablers of the evil complained of for God’s Sake. How the hell is that ?

        Pissed off initially I had ultimately to be satisfied with a wry smile. In the face of cognitive dissonance induced by membership of cargo-cult and money lust “Told ya so !” ain’t that intelligible.

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