I recently had a long chat to a local policeman who will remain nameless because of his vulnerability if it was ever revealed that he had spoken out about the day to day realities of frontline policing. He explained to me about the management heavy structure, the shortage of frontline police, the poor performance of centralised communication systems and the frustration of losing the community policing approach that used to work. I was also told that the records they contribute to are managed so that the statistics look good for their superiors and fit with Government targets.
Our police are having to deal with the consequences of poor health and welfare policy while they themselves are under resourced.
The police are also assisting with the implementation of unreasonable Government policy, protecting the Government's image and shutting down any scrutiny of their own operations. Here are some examples:
- Bradley Ambrose was the photographer who inadvertently recorded the teacup conversation between John Key and John Banks. There was no evidence that it was a deliberate act and no charges were laid. John Key demanded that Ambrose be investigated for intent and the police took the extraordinary steps of seizing 323 txt messages in the days before and after the incident. Many of the txt messages were conversations between Ambrose and his Lawyer in breech of lawyer client privilege.
- Glen Innes state house removals were supported by the police who took an aggressive approach to managing the protesters. It was clear that they went well beyond what was necessary with regards to John Minto who hardly posed a physical threat.
- The Government's target driven management throughout the public sector creates considerable pressure on managers and the police are expected to produce data showing reductions in crime. This has been achieved (with a supposed 30% reduction since 2008) but there is evidence that the reliability of the data is in question. In an effort to meet targets Counties Manukau recoded 700 burglaries as incidents between 2009 and 2012. While this was presented as an isolated incident, it was revealed on The Nation that police at the highest level don't want their statistics scrutinised (starting 6:45 in an interview with the Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverly Wakem) . A OIA request from a TV producer for information regarding South Auckland police doctoring burglary data was delayed for over two years. A job sheet surfaced that revealed that the then Deputy Commissioner Mike Bush (now in the top job) advised that the OIA request was to be left and not responded to.
- Nicky Hager severely embarrassed the Government with his Dirty Politics revelations and as a result the police spent 10 hours searching his house and removed his computer despite no criminal charges being laid. Hager's bank records were also accessed by the Police without official court approval. This description of the raid on Hager's house is particularly disturbing, especially the treatment of his daughter.
- Heather du Plessis-Allan embarrassed the police by revealing how poor their systems were to monitor gun purchases and vet purchasers. As a part of a TV3 Story investigation she provided fake details to purchase a gun to prove how easy it was to do so online, without a license. She then handed the details of what she did and the gun to the police. As a result the Police sent a team from Auckland to Wellington with a warrant to search her house. There seems no rational reason to have done it, other than to make a point that they don't like to be publicly embarrassed. The police had already been informed about the issue that du Plessis-Allan had exposed some time before but had done nothing to address it.
- Censoring Dr Jarrod Glibert from accessing police data because he once published research on gangs is well beyond what should be allowed in an open and free society. Insisting that any researcher has to sign an agreement that will not allow anything to be published that will negatively impact on the police is one step towards a police state. Academic freedom and robust research is a necessary part of protecting our society from abuse through state controlled institutions.
- One would have thought after the police corruption exposed in the Arthur Allan Thomas and Louise Nicholas cases, that the police would have cleaned up their act. However the Scott Watson interview in the North & South raises questions again about manipulated evidence and vendetta's. Commissioner Mike Bush was also forced to apologise for his eulogy at the funeral of corrupt cop Bruce Hutton (who planted the evidence that wrongfully convicted Thomas). In that eulogy he praised Hutton's integrity.
I have the utmost respect for many frontline police who are forced to work in many challenging and difficult situations, but I find the amount of political influence over their activities concerning. I also think that the current Commissioner's honesty and integrity are questionable. We need to be able to trust our police to treat us fairly and impartially and I don't think we can.