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Police Special Investigations – A fundamental lack of humanity

Written By: - Date published: 8:02 am, December 15th, 2008 - 46 comments
Categories: activism, police - Tags:

Aside from all the democratic, political and moral issues raised by the Police’s behaviour, there is a fundamental lack of humanity in their actions.

Yeah, perhaps the Police do have a role in preventing the graffiti of billboards (apparently they used their informant to try to track down a group that graffitied a red meat billboard), and perhaps $600+ a week is worth it (well let’s pretend it is), but what about the human cost?

Paying an informant to infiltrate groups, to build personal relationships with members, is not the same as buying a set of night-vision goggles or a new unmarked car. There are real personal, human costs in addition to the invoice.

Somewhere along the way some of the Police seem to have lost the realisation that personal costs matter when weighing up whether to do something the human damage needs to be factored in, whether the pain they will cause will be worth it.

So, for a bit of graffiti, a brief coal-shop blockade, and some liberated chooks, was the damage to the individuals involved worth it? The 10 years of betrayal that they created, managed and paid for has hurt so many people, from Rob’s friends, to Rob, to people who be turned away by groups on the suspicion of being “another Rob.”  How much personal pain is worth less than some red paint on billboard?

After the police conduct enquiry which came out of the allegations of rape and sexual exploitation by Police, it was recommended that the Police establish a code of conduct, which they did strangely it does not mention sexual conduct. When challenged they said that it was covered “in the general guidelines on respect for people and property”, which was a horrific enough indication of their values in itself.

Now, it seems, we have discovered that there is no actual respect for people for their pain, for their privacy, for their rights.

Anita

46 comments on “Police Special Investigations – A fundamental lack of humanity”

  1. George 1

    **Yawn***

    Honestly, this could of been all right until the last sentence.

    So many of those groups who were under observation, and NIcky Hager can be included in this as well, have none of the respect you talk about Anita.

    Or is it only your self-respect and rights that matter? Not the rights of those protested against, or whose billboard gets red paint on it, or a prominent politicians family home thats gets protested outside of?

  2. Anita 2

    George,

    Or is it only your self-respect and rights that matter? Not the rights of those protested against, or whose billboard gets red paint on it, or a prominent politicians family home thats gets protested outside of?

    Sure the owner of the billboard has rights, and sure they need protection.

    But the Police have a balancing act in every decision they make  they prioritise some rights over others every day. Do they follow up on the graffiti or look for the missing child? Do they run a booze bus or walk the beat in Courtenay Place? Do they follow up the rape complaint or the burglary?

    In this case they decided that the privacy, pain and rights of a whole raft of people (activists and not) was worth far less than graffiti and some liberated chooks.

    Sure there are competing rights, sure the Police’s job is to prioritise but their choice of which rights to prioritise tells us a lot about them. Once again they chose property over people.

  3. Joe Blogger 3

    “the Police’s job is to prioritise but their choice of which rights to prioritise tells us a lot about them. Once again they chose property over people.”

    Actually the Police’s Job is to enforce the law. If these groups don’t act in illegal ways then there will be no need for the police monitor them.

  4. Felix 4

    Joe,

    Of course it is their job to enforce the law. And that involves prioritizing which laws to enforce.

    You don’t really not understand that, do you?

  5. higherstandard 5

    “Now, it seems, we have discovered that there is no actual respect for people for their pain, for their privacy, for their rights.”

    Bullshit – Please avoid making this a beat up on the police the vast amount of whom are doing a bloody hard job with little thanks and doing it well.

  6. George 6

    Anita,

    Thats all well and good and i understand that police have limited resources, and have to allocate them efficiently.

    I said most of your post was all right. It was the final sentence that i took exception too, as a blanket accusation of the police having no respect for the property rights and respect for “people” is rather self-indulgent and lazy writing. Especially so when you go on to subsequently point out the police have to decide between rape (depsicable, demeaning, robbery of someones rights and invasion of personal space) and burglary (annoying, thoughtless mockery of property rights).

    And though we all know who you are referring too, If you had refined who the subject of the Police’s ire is, i wouldn’t have had to point out that the police actually preserve peoples respect, privacy and rights. I use the term people when referring to society in general, you use it as if the only persons capable of being people are activists.

  7. Felix 7

    George,

    If you think this is just about activists you must live in a bubble.

    HS,

    You might want to find a doctor to have a look at that jerky knee of yours.

  8. George 8

    Felix,

    I don’t live in a bubble, but it is a nice neighbourhood. in case you didn’t read my post i am only refering to Anita’s post and the assertation that police in general don’t respect people rights in general. you might want to take some comprehension classes before you go off about people living arrangements.

  9. Felix 9

    Whatever.

    I use the term people when referring to society in general, you use it as if the only persons capable of being people are activists.

    If you had comprehension skills and didn’t live in a bubble you might have realised that this type of behaviour by the police affects many more people than “activists”.

  10. lprent 10

    It sure does. Ask my parents – Rochelle didn’t tell them until after their 50th wedding anniversary so as not to spoil the occasion.

  11. George 11

    I do possess comprehension sklls felix, it enables me to see your point but also refute your attack on my understanding of this issue because i was only pointing out that to attack the police for not having any respect for peoples self-respect, privacy and rights, is just plain wrong. most of their job is about upholding these things against law breakers.

    blanket generalisations hold little sway with me. If, as alleged the police have commited such actions against law-abiding groups of people, then they have had their privacy, self respect etc violated. but people in general haven’t.

  12. the sprout 12

    Good article Anita.

    The actions of at least some of ‘our’ Police have been demonstrably immoral.

    And George, while your reasons for protecting the name of your kith is obvious, less blinkered readers might start to wonder why it is that such practices continue to be facilitated by police command.

  13. Gustavo Trellis 13

    I’m sorry, but excusing one crime on the basis there are others that are apparently much worse as wrong as spying on groups who express their rights in a legal and effective manner.

  14. Hmm 14

    Surely this is a) collateral damage if you are a pro protester b) what youd expect from the plod c) a bit late in the piece to be bleating after a change in government.

  15. the sprout 15

    sorry gustavo, which crime is being excused?

  16. George 16

    protecting the name of my kith? please elaborate on that “the sprout”

  17. Felix 17

    The fallacy you’re entertaining, George, is that “law-abiding groups of people” exist as such and can therefore be excluded from the more nefarious activities of the police.

    Can you explain why you are less deserving of monitoring and surveillance and intrusion into your private affairs than anyone else?

    Remember, we’re not talking about people with serious criminal backgrounds either. Just people, George, so I’m glad you’re not into “blanket generalisations”.

    Lets see if you can approach the issue without resorting to any more “blanket generalisations” like “activist”.

  18. Carol 18

    Have people involved in The Sensible Sentencing Trust, campaigns against the EFA our against the removal of the clause from the Crimes (against Children) Act also been targetted by such police surveillance? Or is it just left-wing activists who get investigated?

    Also Howard Broad has just said on NatRad that such intelligence gathering focuses on individuals, not groups, in order to make a risk assessment regarding their likelihood of being involved in violent activities. How credible is that?

  19. George 19

    Ahhhh, the groups under investigation have all been involved in some form of activism haven’t they? just like the police are often involved in some form of policing.

    Mebbe, the police were using an undercover officer to see if crimes were being commited? I said in another post on a related topic that the use of the SIG is probably overkill. but anyway.

    I believe law-abiding groups of people exist and yes, they can therefore be excluded from the more secretive activities of police.

    are you trying to say that is a fallacy to operate under this belief that law-abiding groups of people exist? and that therefore everyone is worthy of police investigation?

    or are you trying to say that law-abiding groups, like rotarions, can expect that at some point they will be under police investigation and should be wary of any new member, who may start making the beast of two backs with other members and then flog all the juicy (though probably mind-numbingly dull) details off.

  20. Felix 20

    I didn’t think you could.

    You’re now saying that activism, regardless of criminality, is justification for surveillance.

    You’re supporting the idea that the police can and should be used to stifle political dissent.

    I suspected as much, but it’s good to see you come out and say it.

  21. I welcome the police surveillance of activists. In fact I’m aware of one such political activist who is in possession of firearms and is keen to use them, has a history of threatening violence, stalking and boasting about committing assaults…

    The question is will the SIG be investigating Cameron Slater…

    Perhaps I should drop them a note…

  22. the sprout 22

    That NatRad interview with Howard Broad was remarkable, I’ve never heard a Commissioner of Police sound so evasive, uncomfortable and generally incredible.

    “protecting the name of my kith? please elaborate ”

    You know exactly what I’m saying. If anyone needs to elaborate, it’s you George.

    “the groups under investigation have all been involved in some form of activism haven’t they?”

    are you saying activism = criminality?

    “Mebbe, the police were using an undercover officer to see if crimes were being commited?”

    It sounds like you are justifying police surveillance of ANY group, is that what you’re arguing for George? sounds a bit like a right to search any home or person just in case a crime might be being committed.

  23. George 23

    nice of you too put words in my mouth, and draw conclusions for me that i don’t draw myself. not surprising though.

    I didn’t actually say any of those things by the way, nor did i infer them.

    and nor is activism justification for investigation, I’ve already said it was probably overkill. Police should be investigating where a crime has or is being commited, or with reasonable certainty is going to be. it doens’t really matter the level of seriousness of the crime.

    I was against the EFA, strongly and loudly. which of course was using the law and police for stifling political dissent. and who gave us that? and told us, the public, that we didn’t care about what was going on?

    i was just pointing out in Anita’s original post that the police, in general, uphold privacy, self respect and rights, i’ve repeated my self several times and suspect that you still don’t get it.

  24. toad 24

    Carol said: Have people involved in The Sensible Sentencing Trust, campaigns against the EFA our against the removal of the clause from the Crimes (against Children) Act also been targetted by such police surveillance? Or is it just left-wing activists who get investigated?

    Yep, that would be an interesting question Carol. I know only about the left wing / environmental ones becasue those are the ones I have been involved with.

    Some of the right wing ones (and especially the pro-violence against children) contain some absolute fruit loops that all came out of the closet during the section 59 debate, including some individuals who threatened physical violence to Sue Bradford. Then there were the anti-EFA protesters whose idea of effective protesting was throwing bricks throuh peoples’ windows. Both of these were enagaing in and/or advocating criminal acts

    So come on you right wingers who lurk/troll here – let us know if you have reason to suspect your groups are infiltrated by the Police.

  25. toad 25

    Robinsod said: The question is will the SIG be investigating Cameron Slater

    They might find some files on his hard drive that the Vice Squad would be interested in too…

  26. Felix 26

    I didn’t actually say any of those things by the way, nor did i infer them.

    Yes you did, George. (And it’s imply, not infer.)

    Ahhhh, the groups under investigation have all been involved in some form of activism haven’t they? just like the police are often involved in some form of policing. Mebbe, the police were using an undercover officer to see if crimes were being commited?

    But I accept that perhaps you didn’t realise you said it.

    are you trying to say that is a fallacy to operate under this belief that law-abiding groups of people exist?

    Clearly.

    If your flatmate has a criminal record, does that entitle the police to monitor everyone in the house? Are you now to be considered a “non-law-abiding-group”? What if your flatmate’s criminal record is for shoplifting? Should the police be monitoring you on suspicion of shoplifting? Drugs? Terrorism?

    Let’s take another group – your extended family for example. Does your brother-in-law’s drink driving conviction warrant the police monitoring your family’s alcohol intake? What if there are known alcohol issues with more than one family member?

    What about more transient groupings of people – say, “all the people in a particular bar on a particular date”? What about “all of the people who regularly catch the 8:15 bus”?

    Society is complex and nuanced. It may be convenient for you to think in terms of rotarians, activists, goodies and baddies but it’s lazy and false and frankly I’d get better analysis from the cat than I’ve got from you so far.

  27. Tim Ellis 27

    The 10 years of betrayal that they created, managed and paid for has hurt so many people, from Rob’s friends, to Rob, to people who be turned away by groups on the suspicion of being “another Rob.’

    Why is it that it is the Police who “created” this ten years of betrayal? It seems to me that a lot of people are quite happy to limit Gilchrist’s culpability in these actions. It was he who seemed quite willing to play this game, even inciting fellow activists to go to more extreme lengths than they otherwise would have contemplated. I’m sorry Anita but the tone you are using, “poor Rob, he was manipulated by the police” just doesn’t ring true. It looks like he was the one who is ultimately responsible.

    I am nervous about the idea of brushing aside his misdeeds just to take a further dig at the police which for all we know now, may have received an offer from Rob to provide information.

    How old is this Gilchrist character? How old is he, 40? I don’t mean to get personal LP, but I would have thought that a 40 year old involved in a relationship with a 21 year old might raise a few red flags.

    I agree with Anita that some of what has been revealed may cast some suspicion within the protest movement about who else might be spying, but a bit of objectivity probably isn’t a bad thing. If somebody like Gilchrist can infiltrate a protest organisation on behalf of the Police, then it can be done by another political party, or a commercial entity with competing motives as well. Maybe some of these protest groups should be a bit more skeptical about who they trust, and what illegal activities they engage in.

  28. Chris G 28

    ugh I hate that line of “You have nothing to worry about if your squeaky clean”

    The cops clearly have to tread a fine line in monitoring activism because often they will break the law (wow Tut Tut) but this whole saga makes them look like power tripping dorks who have watched too many hollywood Cops shows and the Crime and Investigation channel far too much.

    I dont envy cops jobs at all, I know a few and have observed and heard that it makes you a different person. I saw the cops behaviour during the Undie 500 ‘riots’ and just thought… what the hell are you boneheads doing?

    Spying on left-wing activist groups, yet another example. Im pretty sure theres a fair few gangs that you should be monitoring instead…maybe they perpetuate the drug trade a little? fuck, surely not, wire-tap Greenpeace instead.

  29. George,


    blanket generalisations hold little sway with me

    The poster(Anita) was writing per the subject PSI.. I would not be alone in both understanding and accepting that.. viz not blanket generalising..

    The generalising – as you stated above – was yours.

    So.. do I take it that you are disagreeing with yourself..? And that you needed selective response to the poster(Anita) to demonstrate this..?

  30. I would have thought that a 40 year old involved in a relationship with a 21 year old might raise a few red flags.

    I take it you’ll be raising a red flag about your boss’s predilections for younger members of the fairer sex then?

  31. lprent 31

    TE:
    The problem is that activist groups should be open and public to push their cause. Otherwise they become subversive – that is dangerous for us all. The types of police actions recently have had a chilling effect on democratic action. They are effectively pushing democratic groups towards going subversive. That is just totally stupid.

    BTW: Of course the age difference raised flags. However it isn’t uncommon. My partner is 16 years younger than I am. Which as a friend pointed out fitted the classic formula of half the age + 7 years. Similar but less age differences exist or have existed with the partners with my brother, rochelles sister, her father, etc.

  32. Julie 32

    It occurs to me that one of the most disruptive, and illegal, protests in recent years was the trucking lobby shutdown of the main centres earlier this year. Yet that group wasn’t on the SIG’s radar it seems?

  33. Tim Ellis 33

    I take it you’ll be raising a red flag about your boss’s predilections for younger members of the fairer sex then?

    I don’t know who you think I am robinsod, but you’re a bit off target. My boss is Australian, and his boss, the CEO, is also Australian, and as far as I know they both behave themselves.

    I don’t have a problem with people going out with much younger people, but it does raise red flags.

  34. Um… no Tim – your boss is from Christchurch.

    [lprent: if you want to speculate like that, then do it elsewhere.]

  35. sonic 35

    $600 a week to sell your soul?

    I wonder if they had any dirt on him?

  36. Tim Ellis 36

    Um no Tim – your boss is from Christchurch.

    He does a good Australian accent then.

  37. Jeez Chris – you sure keep trying…

  38. student_still 38

    I have to agree with Higherstandard. The vast majority of Police do an outstanding job, and someone who has never spent a day in their shoes is clearly unable to fully understand things from a police officer’s perspective. I refuse to accept the lumping together of all cops as dim witted sheep, who complacently follow the hierarchical structure of Police, while at the same time choosing to abuse the great power that they are afforded. I’m sure there are a few bad eggs in the police force, (as there would have to be with any Organisation that runs off testosterone) who are in it for the wrong reasons, and who perhaps sometimes, whether consciously or not, abuse and misuse the authority they have.

    Perhaps the Police have come to view protesters as a threat because they often sit on the fringes of society, and are so exclusive, that it is impossible to find out any information on who belongs and what the group in question does. ‘Society’ always view things that they don’t understand as scary and threatening, and it can often end up being the job of Police to make ‘Society’ feel safe, while at the same time enforcing the law.

    Although I don’t condone the misuse of government funding on Police, to conduct Surveillance into any and every Generic ‘protest’ Organisation, most of which pose little actual threat to New Zealand, it is not appropriate to blame this entirely upon Police.

  39. Anita 39

    Tim Ellis,

    Why is it that it is the Police who “created’ this ten years of betrayal? It seems to me that a lot of people are quite happy to limit Gilchrist’s culpability in these actions. It was he who seemed quite willing to play this game, even inciting fellow activists to go to more extreme lengths than they otherwise would have contemplated. I’m sorry Anita but the tone you are using, “poor Rob, he was manipulated by the police’ just doesn’t ring true.

    That was not the tone I intended at all, and I’m surprised you read it in, but there we go 🙂

    I hold Rob completely culpable for his actions; he’s a grown-up, he had choices.

    I also hold the Police involved completely culpable for their actions; they’re grown up, they had choices.

    Importantly for the Police they have operational policies and guidelines, they have an organisational culture, they have oversight, they have reporting lines. Either a couple of (relatively senior) guys went completely off the rails (and will shortly be out of their jobs) or this is the considered decision of the Police, as a whole, that this was an appropriate action.

  40. Anita 40

    To clarify my original post…

    That last paragraph I meant to apply to the New Zealand Police as a whole.

    I agree there are outstanding individuals inside the Police (and plenty of great, good and average ones too) who do a damned good job and respect and value individual people. Individual police officers who demonstrate humanity.

    But the organisation as a whole – ick! This kind of action was defended by the Commissioner. This was not one or two aberrant lowly ranked officers, this is how the Police does its business, this is what it (as a whole) believes is acceptable and appropriate practice.

    Lynn has talked about both TPU and TAU here before, again not aberrant single officers but a valued part of the structure.

    Many of us have talked about their attitudes to sexual misconduct (and the unwillingness of their hierarchy to address it).

    We’ve seen the appalling behaviour around the October 15 raids (whatever you think of the reasons for the action some of the Police behaviour toward children and Maori communities was unacceptable by every measure).

    Many people have reported on the poor way the Police organisation treats individual officers emotionally and/or psychologically damaged by under cover work.

    While it’s true many of the individual sworn and non-sworn staff are wonderful people who I am completely grateful to, the organisation as whole repeatedly demonstrates scant regard for either moral and ethical considerations or the rights, privacy and pain of people.

  41. the sprout 41

    wot Anita said @2:47pm

  42. eo 42

    Yeah police priorities are really screwed. When they send four cop cars to arrest a couple of people dumpstering you know there is something wrong with the system.

  43. the sprout 43

    Here are the RNZ interviews today 15 December:

    With Rees, Locke and McBride

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/ntn/2008/12/15/police_spying

    and then the Commissioner attempting to reply, but just making it sound even worse. (Note once again the National Minister responsible is MIA.)

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/ntn/2008/12/15/police_spying_part_2

  44. Quoth the Raven 44

    They were spying on the Worker’s Party as well. I guess the righties who wax lyrically about Hager, who is an investigative journalist, an ordinary citizen, are all good with the police spying on political parties. I think some of the righties above pitch a tent in their pants when thinking about unbridled state power. Masochists probably. “The Waffen SS was terrible, but they had nice uniforms.”

  45. John BT 45

    I recall hearing about this dumbarse some time back. In the media. So, if I knew about it surely the previous Minister of Police knew about it. Could someone please enlighten me as to what he did about it. What was his name?

  46. Rex Widerstrom 46

    student_still suggests:

    I refuse to accept the lumping together of all cops as dim witted sheep, who complacently follow the hierarchical structure of Police, while at the same time choosing to abuse the great power that they are afforded. I’m sure there are a few bad eggs in the police force, (as there would have to be with any Organisation that runs off testosterone) who are in it for the wrong reasons, and who perhaps sometimes, whether consciously or not, abuse and misuse the authority they have.

    You’re quite right, of course. Like any large organisation the NZ Police has its good and its bad. What makes it worse than any similar organisation, however, is its culture.

    Aside from Patrick O’Brien who was the last whistleblower to have the guts to stand up from within the Police? Or even, like O’Brien, after they’d left it.

    Sure the bulk of police officers don’t seriously break the law or trample on people’s rights. But when one of their fellow officers does so their reaction is invariably to close ranks and to either defend the wrongdoer (often to the extent of harassing the complainant) or, at best, playing the “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” game.

    That’s why we need a permanent Police Integrity Commission with wide ranging investigative and, yes, infiltrative powers. What’s good for the goose…

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