Monday, August 30, 2021

The danger of over-zealous enforcement

Over the weekend, police threatened a man with arrest under Covid-19 lockdown powers for filming them making an arrest while on their government-mandated exercise. It seems like a clear over-reach and abuse of power - contrary to the view of the threatening officer, it is not illegal, or "obstruction", to film police in public. But in The Spinoff, lawyer Andrew Geddis points out that our lockdown law is so poorly phrased as to allow police to get away with it.

There's another example today from RNZ: a story on police enforcing lockdown in Dunedin over the weekend has (among some examples of clear dickish behaviour) this rather chilling bit:

Dunedin police are reminding people a lack of preferred chips at the local supermarket is not a reason to travel outside your neighbourhood, as dozens flouted lockdown rules over the weekend.
Apparently someone stopped at a lockdown checkpoint had told police they were driving to the other side of town to buy their preferred snacks. Which may not be sensible - most people would just decide to buy stuff next week instead - but at the same time: people are allowed to buy food from anywhere in their local authority region (or from the nearest location, but its an "or", not an "and" or "must"), and its not really the role of police to be policing what people buy or where.

Individual cases of over-enforcement are bad and unjust, but this also has an impact on overall lockdown compliance. In the UK, police destroyed their social licence, and social licence for lockdowns, by policing people's food shopping and deciding what was and wasn't "essential" (even at one stage trying to stop people buying easter eggs). It would be bad if the New Zealand police were to do the same here.