Monday, January 26, 2009

Wearing a uniform should not put you above the law

I've had some responses to my call yesterday for the police officer who shot and killed Halatau Naitoko to face trial. In email, Graeme Edgeler (who usually knows better) suggested I was calling for a "malicious prosecution" because the killer was a police officer. DPF echoes the same line, claiming that I am "arguing for a trial regardless of the facts" and "for Police officers to have less rights than any other NZer". No, what I am arguing is for the police to have exactly the same rights as any other New Zealander, and for them to apply the same bloody standard to themselves as they apply to everybody else.

If an ordinary citizen shot someone in these circumstances, they would unquestionably be facing court. We expect a high degree of care from the people we trust with guns, to the extent that accidentally shooting someone is regarded as careless pretty much by definition. That standard is high, but it is not inherently malicious, and it does not become so simply because the shooter is wearing a uniform.

Consistency with past practice suggests the officer should be charged. If they are not, questions should be asked. It would suggest that those we entrust to enforce the law still think that they are above it. And that is not something we as a society should tolerate.