Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The IPCA should not have to repeat itself

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has ruled that the police detained a woman unlawfully and breached the Privacy Act when they used a fake traffic stop for intelligence gathering:

Police have been found to have unlawfully detained a Māori woman and taken photos of her and her partner at a road checkpoint, breaching the Privacy Act, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found.

The report said mid-morning on 16 November 2019 police set up a road checkpoint near a 'fight night' event in Ruakākā, Northland where they knew a large number of gang members would be. Not all attendees had gang affiliations.

Officers took photos of a number of gang members or associates, for the purposes of intelligence-gathering, while they were legally driving to an event. The IPCA said it appears this had happened on multiple other occasions.

Officers thought they were legally able to take the photos, and were not instructed to tell the subjects of the purpose of taking the images.

That last bit is bullshit. The IPCA told the police very firmly back in 2018 (in a case over using a fake traffic stop to spy on a euthanasia advocacy group) that this tactic was illegal and that powers under the Land Transport Act could only be used for the purposes of that Act (the full ruling is here; weirdly today's report doesn't seem to mention this). Somehow, that message hasn't gotten through. And police command needs to be held accountable for that. The IPCA simply should not have to repeat itself like this.

Also troubling: the police reportedly lied in their response to an OIA request from the victim for the photos that were taken of her. I hope the Ombudsman has something to say about this, because obviously it cuts right to the heart of the Act if we can no longer believe the responses we receive from the government.

Meanwhile, as the victim was unlawfully detained, I'd hope the police will be paying compensation. And not just to her, but to everyone they have abused in this manner.