Thursday, November 01, 2007

National could get law and order right, but doesn't

I'm sure you're all terribly surprised at how, according to Stuff, the NZ Police Association (effectively the trade union for the Police) is cheerleading National's new policy of allowing the Police to take DNA from everyone ARRESTED of a crime. The Police Association, which itself has a long standing policy of resisting any reforms to improve Police accountability for performance or budgeting, has never been a friend of freedom, and neither is the Police. Let's face it, they are probably the only organisations in the country that don't know why people worry about a "Police state", because after all "you have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong".
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Yes, how many of YOU have used that phrase whenever there is an increase in powers of state surveillance? Now I don't expect an institution which is at the front line of enforcing state violence to give a damn about freedom, but I do expect a political party which claims to give a damn about freedom to do so.
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Why indeed - you've done nothing wrong, but somehow you have less freedom and rights than others. Of course, the Police will treat that database as an invaluable contribution to fighting future crimes because they can match more people - you see that old argument that the ends justify the means comes out. On that basis we should do more, we should require everyone to have tracking devices carried at all times so the Police can check who was where at what times, then we could fix more crimes! You have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong have you now? Of course you leave your DNA anywhere you might shed a hair, or urinate, or bleed, or leave saliva, or shag - get the picture?
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Now if you believe Keith Locke, you'd think John Key wants a database of DNA held by the Polic on everyone arrested.
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So what DID John Key say in his speech announcing National's Law and Order policy?
- Allow the Police to use tasers: Well fair enough to help restrain troublesome people, as long as they don't abuse it.
- Give police the ability to issue time-bound, on-the-spot protection orders: This could be highly valuable, but then you might ask yourself whether the Police shouldn't simply be arresting the people the orders are intended for? So this is worthy of discussion.
- Reinstating the previous provisions on bail to increase the difficulty of getting bail: Fine.
- Make it illegal to be a member of a criminal gang. Of course this is perpetually the funny one, brought up on talkback radio. So what is a criminal gang? It's simple, either the government defines them explicitly, and then the name of the gang changes every day, or it becomes a catch all - so anyone could be in a criminal gang, you know like a protest group that opposes mandatory censuses, or opposes drug laws. How do you prove membership? You'll find this one quietly disappears.
- Increase ease of surveillance of gang communications. Same issue really, what's a gang? Surveillance powers are already very high, what more are they going to do?
- Allow the police to remove gang fortifications. Well you would've thought that given how fascist the RMA is that this would be relatively simple, of course what it is likely to mean is that Police powers would exist to destroy any local authority unapproved constructions. Hmmm hardly looking forward to that, especially since the Nats show little interest in private property rights, once more.
- More cops. Yes yes, always makes people cheer. Might be nice if the Police are accountable for what they do, might be nice if they didn't pursue victimless crimes and might be nice if the Police Association agreed to performance based pay - but the Nats wouldn't want their favourite union to answer that question would they? You see, what would happen if any government did that is the Police would go on strike, and claim that suddenly they couldn't do all the visible policing you all care about. It's one of the toughest nuts to crack in government - making the cops accountable.
- Require DNA samples to be taken from all those arrested for offences punishable by imprisonment, but destroyed when someone is acquitted. If you can trust the Police to do that, then all very well. However, as I've said, try making them accountable.
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If you are guilty of a crime, then it is right that as part of your sentence your DNA can be kept on a database which may indicate next time you commit a crime. Your right to freedom from surveillance was countered by you infringing upon the freedom of others. Of course I am only talking about real crimes, not victimless "crimes".
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So what could the Nats have said?
- Review all criminal laws to repeal victimless crimes, and revise sentencing;
- Review and revise drug laws, to change the emphasis from chasing users to chasing supply to minors, and fraudulent supply;
- Introduce three strikes laws, so those convicted of violent offences are detained permanently for a third violent crime;
- Allow sentencing to include permanent denial of custody of children to convicted serious violent and sexual offenders;
- Second time murderers get life - meaning life;
- A renewed emphasis on pursuing property offences;
- Zero-tolerance for minor offences.
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so, i might yawn....

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