Thursday, July 07, 2011

Making an example

Back in February, Arie Smith was arrested by police after allegedly looting in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake. It subsequently emerged that he has Asperger's syndrome which compels him to steal light fittings. Given the circumstances of the case and the lack of previous criminal offending, this is a perfect case for using police diversion. Unfortunately, despite some pretty strong and repeated hints from the judge, that has been denied, by order of Police National Headquarters.

As for why, its hard to escape the obvious conclusion: the police want to make an example of Smith. No, not for looting - the facts of the case suggest a lack of criminal intent on his part - but for going public about the beating he received at the hands of the police during his arrest. Clearly, complaining about such mistreatment is not acceptable to the police. So they're victimising him, dragging him through the courts on charges which seem to have a low chance of success, as punishment. In the process, they're wasting thousands of dollars of public money, our money, in an effort to deter people from reporting criminal behaviour by police in future.

And then they wonder why people don't trust them, or think that nothing has changed since they covered up rapes in the 80's and 90's. This is why. If the police want to regain our trust, they need to earn it. Not obviously pursuing vindictive campaigns against people who complain about them would be a good way to start.