Friday, August 29, 2014

Whatever happened to liberty?

Yesterday, the Independent Police Conduct Authority released a report finding that police routinely exceeded their powers in shutting down "out of control" parties, invading people's homes, assaulting people, using excessive force (in some cases causing significant injury), and shutting down parties and forcing people to disperse without any statutory basis. In other words, that they routinely commit trespass, aggravated burglary, and assault. To their credit, the police have accepted the recommendations, and are training their officers so they don't abuse their powers in the future (but naturally, there is no talk of prosecuting those who have). Unfortunately, the Police Association thinks this is the wrong approach:

The Police Association wants the law changed so officers can shut down out-of-control parties.


Police Association President Greg O'Connor said there should be a law change.

"I would imagine that there will be people in streets near where parties are taking place, who become aware that police can't do much about it, that may start putting pressure on their own local politicians to give the police those powers."

To which you have to ask "whatever happened to liberty"? These are situations where people are breaking no laws, or where those who are can be dealt with individually (something the law already permits). Instead, O'Connor is proposing at best a collective punishment of those who happen to be in the vicinity of someone who has broken the law, and in practice an open-ended power by police to suppress any gathering on private property they don't like. This is utterly inconsistent with the freedoms of assembly, association and expression, not to mention the right to liberty affirmed in the BORA. If you are not committing any crime, the police simply have no business interfering in your life, and should leave you to get on with it.

There is a name for states which suppress private gatherings. They're called "tyrannies". And greg O'Connor wants to turn us into one. And insofar as he can be assumed as an elected official to speak for the police rank and file, so does our police force. Isn't it time we reined them in, and defended our basic liberty from the arbitrary excesses of these uniformed dictators?