Thursday, May 16, 2013

One hand washes the other

McDonald's workers in Auckland have been engaged in an industrial dispute for the last few weeks over pay rates and workplace discrimination. They've met with an "enthusiastic" response from police, who seem to think it is a crime for a strike to reduce the number of customers. Why? It turns out they're being bribed with cheap burgers.

The police are trotting out the politician's line, that it is "ludicrous" that they would prostitute themselves for so little. But this isn't transactional corruption, its relational. By giving police a regular discount, McDonald's creates a positive relationship and marks themselves as a friend to be vigorously protected, even when such protection involves unlawful interference with the rights of free expression and free assembly.

But regardless, it is against the Police Code of Conduct. Like public servants, police are required to act with fairness and impartiality, "and to be seen to do so, avoiding any potential or perceived conflicts of interest" (my emphasis). Accepting discounts creates a perceived conflict of interest, which is precisely why the police ban them. Sadly, it seems that that ban is ineffective. The police need to enforce it, otherwise we will all know that their vaunted code of conduct isn't worth the paper it is written on.