Monday, April 07, 2014

The police should not be above the law

In April 2011, Invercargill police apprehended a suspected burglar. During the arrest, one officer crash-tackled the suspect while he was already in custody, and another set a police dog on him. The victim was savaged for almost a minute, and required surgery for his injuries.

The Independent Police Conduct authority has just found that both of these actions were unlawful and constituted an excessive use of force:

An officer who allowed a police dog to bite an Invercargill man for almost a minute while he was dragged by several officers along the footpath acted illegally, an inquiry has found.


In its findings, released on Monday, the IPCA said the officer who tackled Taylor from behind acted prematurely and excessively and likely escalated the situation.

The IPCA said there was not enough evidence to determine if the deployment of the police dog was excessive but allowing it to bite for 50 seconds was.

"The continued deployment of the police dog by Officer A amounted to an excessive use of force given there were sufficient police staff present to subdue Taylor."

Which naturally raises the question: having acted illegally, will the officers involved be prosecuted? Are the police subject to the law they enforce, or above it? Sadly, the answer seems to be "no":
Southern police says it accepts the findings of the inquiry and admits some shortcomings.

"While our staff are well trained and strive to do their best in all situations, we acknowledge that in this case, after reviewing events, that some of our tactical decision-making was not as good as it should have been," Southern District commander, Superintendent Andrew Coster said.

Supt Coster admitted the actions of the officers exacerbated the situation rather than de-escalating it.

The officers involved have had the "opportunity to reflect on what occurred and learn from the situation", he said.

So: if a member of the public sets a dog on someone and allows it to savage them, causing serious injury, they'd go to jail (oh, and the dog would be destroyed). If the police do it, they simply "reflect on what occurred". Its one law for the police, and another for the peasants.