On discovering that her boyfriend had been spying on her and her friends for the police, and the consequent violations of her expectation of privacy, my niece Rochelle had quite enough tolerance of the police. That is sufficient cause to get seriously annoyed, and it is generally unwise to seriously annoy geeks. So she has invaded the privacy of her spy and his police handlers.
I made a decision that my priority had to be to get everything I could, prove everything I could, and do everything I could to prevent the police doing what they did again.
I flew down to Christchurch and installed spyware on Rob Gilchrist’s phone to monitor his phone calls and text messages, and a script on his computer to continue sending his emails to me. I also downloaded the past 12 months of his phone bills from telecom, and managed to decrypt documents in his emails that had been encrypted.
In effect she had access to a large amount of the ongoing and past dialogue between Rob and his police handlers. This makes some of the statements made by Howard Broad in the last few days somewhat hilarious. He badly needs to get on top of what his officers are doing, if only because otherwise Rochelle can tell him.
Since she became a peaceful activist for animal rights trying to work within our supposed democracy, Rochelle has spent a lot of time in court on mainly spurious charges. She has been remarkably tolerant of the police on the advice from family and friends, who have been advising her that living without them would be worse. However over the years that tolerance wears down.
The police reaction to me as a protester has been completely and utterly over the top. They have intruded into my life more than I could ever have expected was possible. It felt good to feel like I was giving some of it back. This whole thing is like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, not something that happens in the real world.
What she is referring to are charges like “intimidation by loitering”. This was brought for noisily protesting in front of a shop that was selling factory farmed fur. On appeal, after a couple of years and $30k in defense costs, the judge concluded that protesting was not loitering. The question of intimidation was never really looked at on the appeal apart from counting the few seconds that her camera had caught the store keeper in frame. In my opinion the charge was only brought so that the Threats Assessment Unit (TAU) could obtain a search warrant to grab her computers and cameras for intelligence gathering.
There has been a lot of talk around the media and the blogs over the past days about the role of political protest in our democracy. Well some police appear to have a different idea to most of the commentary. To them trying to raise a different point of view means that you are a target for the excesses of some crazies in the police who obviously have over-active imaginations. Who better to quote on the subject than Ross Muerant talking about the Oct 15 raids. Ross was in the Red Squad during the 1981 springbok tour before becoming a politician.
As I look at it now I can see that I had been brainwashed to the extent that I actually believed the nonsense that we were producing out of the police. The information we were getting in and the decisions we were reaching were too subjective. There was no man on the clapham bus sitting outside and looking in and saying â€˜Is this a reasonable conclusion to draw based on the information you have collected’.
So when the current commissioner of police Howard Broad said on his appointment
New Police Commissioner Howard Broad cannot recall another time in his 30-year career when there has been so much bad publicity about the police and says he is committed to restoring public confidence.
he wasn’t wrong.
I’d suggest that the commissioner looks at what level of confidence is generated by having out of control police intimidating and spying on peaceful activists. Not only does it affect the people targeted. It also affects their family and friends who then spread the word. It clogs the courts with police bringing charges as a way of harassing of activists (which regularly get dropped or fail to achieve conviction), and misusing their powers to charge to obtain search warrants. It has a chilling effect on the process of peaceful democratic change. Moreover it is a waste of my taxes.
I’d suggest to the commissioner that the main problem is with controlling your more paranoid sworn officers abusing their powers. They bring the reputation of the police into disrepute through campaigns of active intimidation against activists trying to bring about peaceful change. It is something that can and should only be done within the police.
I’m sure that there are activists who will assist in the required changes as Rochelle is. Take the opportunity.
[lprent: Apparently the police don’t like us using their logo. So it has been changed to a more evocative image. Thanks to SP for finding the right one.]