Just over six months ago National released its Law and Order policy discussion document. This was meant to kick start a discussion on laura norda that was one of the policies that would would propel National to victory this year. Of the paper National said this:
National is committed to making New Zealand the safest country in the world. We have the experience, ideas and track record needed to make this a reality. This document will give you a feel for where are headed next year…
National is the Party of Law and Order. We will deliver a strong, clear plan to make New Zealand a safer place to raise your children, enjoy your retirement or pursue your dreams.
The most intriguing policy proposal was to emulate what the New South Wales Police was doing. Harass supposed gang members basically for kicks and law and order kudos.
When the policy was released I said this:
One of the most talked about matters in National’s Law and Order Discussion Document is the proposal to set up a New Zealand equivalent of Australia’s Strike Force Raptor Police Unit, designed to make life as difficult as possible for gang members.
What was the evidential basis behind this policy proposal? Bridges was asked and told Radio New Zealand this:
Mr Bridges promised the party would release figures “in the next little while” which would prove the unit’s effectiveness.
“We are at this moment, in fact, talking to the government in New South Wales to compile the data.”
Announcing the proposal and then compiling the data in support. That is a novel way to develop policy.
And the policy has been panned. And not just by namby pamby soft on crime lefties. Again from Radio New Zealand:
National leader Simon Bridges repeatedly described the unit as “devastatingly effective” and referenced media reports which claimed it was driving outlaw bikies into extinction.
But former NSW detective Mike Kennedy told RNZ that was “nonsense” and Mr Bridges was “living a dream” if he believed that.
“He needs to pull his head out of whatever it’s stuck in because … [gangs] exist. They’re always going to exist. They just go underground.
“I’m not a bleeding heart liberal,” he said. “But [the zero-tolerance strategy has] just been a disaster.”
Dr Kennedy spent much of his time with the police as an undercover officer working in organised crime and is now a senior lecturer at Western Sydney University.
He said there was no evidence to suggest that gang numbers had fallen dramatically since the formation of Strike Force Raptor a decade ago.
“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are unregulated, so how would you know?” he said. “They’re not required to pay a fee … and register with government. So any suggestion that the numbers are down is just nonsense.
Six months later and no sign of the data showing how effective the Australian squad has been. And it looks like National is quietly walking away from the policy. From Craig McCulloch at Radio New Zealand:
National is distancing itself from its controversial Strike Force Raptor proposal, saying it would not direct the police to set up such a unit if elected.
The Opposition party made headlines in November when it proposed an elite police squad be formed to target and harass gang members, taking a zero tolerance approach to all offences, no matter how minor.
Then-leader Simon Bridges strongly endorsed the idea – which was modelled on a unit in New South Wales – calling it “devastatingly effective”, but criminologists and former detectives said the plan had not worked in Australia.
RNZ understands some National MPs were uncomfortable with the proposal at the time, fearing it could unfairly target Māori.
Asked whether new leader Todd Muller would advocate for the Strike Force Raptor proposal, a party spokesperson told RNZ all policies were under review.
“Any changes or new policies will be announced in the coming weeks.”
But, speaking to RNZ on Wednesday night, National police spokesperson Brett Hudson confirmed the party, if elected, would not direct the police to set up a specialist unit akin to Strike Force Raptor.
“I wouldn’t step too far over the line to be seen to be directing police on how they deal with their operational procedures and models. The police commissioner has that responsibility.”
What gives? The caucus is the same and the policy document presumably had full support from everyone. It was part of the vaunted roll out of policy so the sudden U turn is jarring.
And to not have policy ready now suggests a degree of desperation and disorganisation that is not typically National.
But at least one of National’s nuttier proposals has been ditched. Although there was little chance of them being able to enact. Thankfully …