The Right usually argues for limited government. They fear unaccountably state agents abusing their power. It’s a justified fear. All power tends to be abused unless you have strong checks on it. Both Left and Right can usually agree on the need to keep an eye on those who are trusted with power.
But the Right seems to have a blind spot when it comes to the Police. They tend to just heap powers on the Police and trust that nothing will go wrong, despite the Police being renowned for abusing their powers. That’s what’s happening with the new DNA power. No Right Turn sums it up:
In New Zealand, they’ve recently gained the power to forcibly take DNA from anyone arrested, even if they are subsequently acquitted. But even that isn’t enough – and so our police have gone fishing. A few years ago they were harassing teenagers in routine traffic stops, demanding DNA swabs in exchange for letting them go. Now they’re intimidating Maori kids, using fear and lies to extract samples:
“I’ve heard of a few cases where young Maori have been conned by police into giving DNA samples even when they haven’t committed a crime. One young Maori told me the police wanted the sample because one of their relatives might be known to police. “Another told me the police wanted the sample in case the rangatahi got killed and the police needed to identify them.”
Harawira argues that approaching children to give DNA without their parent’s consent is outside police guidelines. its worse than that – it’s flat-out illegal. The law is very clear on this: section 30 of the Criminal Investigations (Bodily Samples) Act 1995 says that
Nothing in section 30 of this Act [which specifies the administrative procedure for gaining samples by consent – I/S] applies in respect of a person who is under the age of 17 years, and no such person shall be capable of consenting to the taking of a bodily sample in response to a request made under that section.
If Harawira is correct, the police have been systematically breaking the law. And every officer who has taken such a sample is guilty of contravention of statute and liable for imprisonment for one year.
The completely unconcerned attitude of the Police hierarchy to these allegations is worrying but, unfortunately, typical. The Police should never have been given the power to take DNA off people at such a low threshold. It should be handled by an independent group and only on conviction. Letting the Police take DNA off anyone they arrest gives them too much incentive to bend the rules, and that seems to be happening.