Thursday, September 24, 2020

This is not what accountability looks like

When someone commits trespass, assault with a weapon, and kidnapping, you'd expect them to be prosecuted, right? But apparently the rules are different if you wear a blue uniform:

A police investigation has found officers in Northland trespassed on a man's property, then unlawfully pepper sprayed him and arrested him.

"Police found that the use of OC spray against the complainant was unlawful, because the officer was trespassing at the time; he should have left the property immediately instead of using force against the complainant."

The officers then left and came back with their supervising officer and unlawfully arrested the man for assaulting police.

"The arrest was found to be unlawful because officers were trespassing when the alleged assault occurred, and were therefore not acting in the lawful execution of their duty at the time.

The fact that these purported uses of power were unlawful makes each of them a criminal offence. But rather than being publicly prosecuted, the officers involved were dealt with by a "confidential employment process". So we have no idea if they were charged, or even fired. They could still be with the police, waiting to trespass, assault, and kidnap someone else.

This is deeply unsatisfactory. Public confidence in the police requires public accountability for their actions. And that means we have a right to know what the police did about this, so we can judge whether it was sufficient, or whether the institution itself needs to be held accountable for inaction. Of course, the latter is precisely what the police wish to avoid. But by covering this up, they have once again undermined the public trust they depend on to do their work, and encouraged people to view them as just another gang with a fancier uniform.