Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Labour's response to police racism: legalise it!

Last month, the the Privacy Commissioner and Independent Police Conduct Authority issued a joint report on their investigation into the police's practice of coercing "voluntary" photographs from young Māori on the street. The report uncovered illegality, systematic racism, and widespread ignorance among police officers of the limits on their behaviour, including some practices so obviously illegal that the Privacy Commissioner was forced to issue a Compliance Notice to stop them (sadly, the IPCA has no such powers). You'd expect the Minister of Police, Chris Hipkins, to be displeased with this, and he is - but not in the way you'd think. Rather than being angry at police for being stupid racist criminals who neither understand or care about their statutory limitations, he was angry that they were being criticised over it. As for his solution to this widespread misconduct, it was simple: legalise it:

Police Minister Chris Hipkins says Parliament may legislate so police can gather young people’s photographs and fingerprints, after a watchdog report deemed the practice illegal.

Hipkins, speaking at the Police Association annual conference in Wellington on Wednesday, said “the pendulum has swung too far” on the issue of privacy rights in light of the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) report.

"I'm absolutely open to change. I do think that intelligence gathering is a core function of police and some of the intelligence gathering that's happened, as of normal in the past, won't be possible any more if we leave the IPCA, Privacy Commissioner finding unchallenged,” he said.

“I am concerned that the report, if left unchallenged, will significantly constrain the police's ability to do their jobs ... I wouldn't take off the table the potential for Parliament to take further action to support the police to do their job.”

So I guess the police are now in the same category as the SIS and GCSB: Parliament will make rules for them, and assure us that this keeps them under control. But when they're found breaking those rules, they'll just retrospectively legalise their actions rather than hold them to account.

The kicker is that the law Hipkins is complaining about - effectively information privacy principle 1 - has been the law since 1993, and it was unanimously reconfirmed by Parliament in 2020. Hipkins voted for it. He also voted for the Policing Act 2008 provisions which ensured police could not retain fingerprints of people acquitted or not charged, and for the 2011 amendments which clarified the relationship between that clause and the youth justice system. In that case, he spoke in the debate, saying that

The police will not be keeping the photographs and fingerprints of young people who are found to have done nothing wrong. They will not be keeping them. That is really, really important.
Now he's proposing that police be allowed to keep photographs of people who haven't even been charged with anything, just for convenience. So I guess it wasn't important after all.

If it wasn't clear already from countless other laws, Labour is just another dirty authoritarian party, who occasionally pretend to support human rights to scam liberal votes. Don't be fooled by them. If you want the police kept under control, vote for politicians who are appropriately suspicious of them. And that means the Greens or Te Pati Māori.