Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vaguely sinister

I got a phone call from the police this morning. Not in relation to any ordinary police business, but about an Official Information Act request I'd submitted recently seeking information on the Kaitaia Shoplifter Trespass Notice Scheme. Getting called by a government agency in response to an OIA request isn't that unusual, but normally they're seeking clarification on what is actually being sought or giving a heads-up about time frames or suggesting alternative ways of seeking the information - not inquiring about who I am, why I want it, and whether I am a Bad Person.

The officer in question was polite, and helpful, and recognised that the issue was a subject of public debate in which random members of the public would be interested. But its still vaguely sinister in a way, and raises questions about the way requests to the police are handled. There's no requirement under the Act to give a reason (and nor should there be - government must justify its decisions to the public, not the other way round), and being a Bad Person or "known to police" is not a legal reason for refusal. If there are concerns about protecting police officers from victimisation, or preventing interference with investigations, then these can already be handled under the Act (sections 6 (c) and (d) and section 9 (a) would be applicable) - but any decision certainly shouldn't depend on the identity of the requester, or on someone in uniform's assessment of whether they have a "good reason" for asking.


Maybe you should be worried about that "no fly list" afterall.

Posted by dc_red : 8/16/2006 02:50:00 PM

That does sound a bit odd and is mildly concerning.

(and how could they pass up "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?")

Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2006 05:58:00 PM

OIA's go out under my real name; its easier that way.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/16/2006 06:01:00 PM

I/S is not your real name???

seriously sinister. Not quite in the realm of McCully and Justice Wild but I would suggest a firm letter back to parliament suggesting it is none of the police' business asking you why you want the information. Nip it in the bud as it were

Posted by sagenz : 8/16/2006 08:43:00 PM

Sage: it's a little late to "nip it in the bud" - the first time I sent in an OIA to police, regarding Tim Selwyn's sedition charges, I got a far less polite phone call from the officer in charge of the case, who was a lot more direct in suggesting that I must be some sort of criminal to be asking anything of the police, and that Bad People had no right to use the OIA.

There seems to be an underlying attitude problem there. The OIA is quite specific: we don't have to justify our requests - they have to justify refusal. Government is answerable to the people, not the other way round.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/16/2006 10:57:00 PM

Perhaps you need to get an MP to enquire (in Parliament) as to why the Police are taking this vaguely-sinister approach?

Sheesh, you'd think they'd be out meeting ticket quotas, not harrassing innocent citizens...


Posted by Anonymous : 8/16/2006 11:31:00 PM

Indeed - here's a chance for your local constituency MP Steve Maharey (I presume, if you're in PN), to stand up for a constituent. Good luck with that one!

Posted by Psycho Milt : 8/17/2006 09:50:00 AM

Have you considered ( or laid) a complaint to the Ombudsman and Police Complaints Authority along with accompanying email to all MP's and a few newspapers. You are describing intimidation and that is not acceptable in our democracy.
At the very least you would raise the profile of OIA requests from members of the public. The law is on your side. Your blog is not sufficiently public space (with all due respect) to get any change in police attitude. They clearly need a corrective explanation from a higher institution. Laying out the facts, the police attitude and your feeling of intimidation would be sufficient.

Posted by sagenz : 8/17/2006 08:35:00 PM new posts in two whole days....this has gone from vaguely to definitely sinister!!!

Posted by Anonymous : 8/18/2006 11:51:00 AM

Logix: You may be having a cachig problem; there have very definitely been posts (though never as many as I'd like to make)

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/18/2006 12:25:00 PM

I've been having a similar problem. Refreshing the page seems to pick fix it (but you may need to refresh the page each time you check the site)

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/18/2006 03:53:00 PM