Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Self-serving, knee-jerk authoritarianism

The Police Association have issued their election manifesto crime policy "discussion document" [PDF], demanding (among other things) tasers, more police, immunity from private prosecution, permanent secrecy when they murder someone, an erosion of the right to silence, curfews, a lower age of criminal responsibility, and UK-style Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. It's the sort of self-serving, knee-jerk authoritarianism I've come to expect from them, issued in a blatant attempt to blackmail politicians into acceding to their demands for fear of being called "soft on crime" in an election year. And unfortunately, its working:

The Government is prepared to look at least one of the law and order policy ideas being put forward by the Police Association.

Police Association President Greg O'Connor this morning launched a policy document titled "Towards a Safer New Zealand".

It suggests investigating UK style antisocial behaviour orders, lowering the age of criminal responsibility, allowing DNA sampling of all arrested suspects, and penalties for defence lawyers who routinely contribute to court delays. Other recommendations include boosting frontline police resources and more amendments to bail laws.

Police Minister Annette King has already looked at UK antisocial behaviour orders and says they have aspects that are interesting.

An example of King's "thinking" on the issue can be found here. The short version is that she thinks it would be a good idea to let the police just make the law up as they go along. Be afraid, be very afraid. As for ASBOs themselves, I've posted on why they are a bad idea here.

It would be nice if we could get a police minister who remembered occasionally that what is convenient for the police is not necessarily desirable to society as a whole, and that police powers need to be limited and the police kept under constant scrutiny so that the rest of us can go about our business in peace. But apparently that's too much to expect. The best we can hope for is that King will no longer be police minister in November. Unfortunately, her expected replacement - Simon Power Chester Borrows - is unlikely to be much better.

Correction: The National Party police spokesperson is Chester Borrows, not Simon Power. Unfortunately, as a former police officer, he pretty much agrees with the Police Association.