Friday, June 05, 2020

Its not an experiment if you don't collect data

When the New Zealand Police started using Armed Response Teams - gangs of heavily-armed police cruising Māori-Pacifica neighbourhoods in juiced-up gun-trucks - they told us it was a "trial". But it turns out that those armed police - who were mainly doing traffic stops and bail checks, rather than the "high-risk incidents" we were told they'd be handling - weren't even bothering to collect data on their callouts:

Police in the Armed Response Teams failed to record their callouts properly on almost every occasion during the trial's first two months.

The six-month experiment ended in April. The trial involved a group of officers in three regions - Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury - equipped with guns on their hips at all times.

Officers were expected to record and submit data on every single call-out. In the first two months, data from five out of every six callouts was missing.

Police did not provide the total rate of responses for the remainder of the trial when asked by RNZ. Instead a spokesperson said the evaluation of the trial would "only be one of the factors taken into consideration as part of our decision making".

Which is just heaping bullshit on bullshit. It's not an experiment if you don't collect the data. But we already knew that this "trial" was a lie from start to finish. Its primary purpose was to accustom the public to a US-style, permanently-armed, militarised police-force. And what's happening in the US at the moment ought to be a warning against ever going down that path.

Meanwhile, the Police Minister is still pretending that the question of whether police are armed is an operational decision for police, rather than a political one for politicians. Bullshit. To point out the obvious: politicians pass the laws which set the parameters for police use of force. They make the financial decisions around what sorts of weapons police can buy and how many. And they make the decisions about how they can deploy them. The decision to "trial" Armed Response Teams was signed off by the Minister, and he announced it on the beehive website - hardly an "operational" decision then. Which means that if we want to keep having an unarmed, rather than a US-style militarised police force, then we need to vote for politicians who will insist on it and refuse to fund militarisation. Rather than chickenshits who will sign off on whatever the police say they want. Sadly, at the moment, we have the latter. But we will have a chance to fix that in September.