Police arguing against their own data

May 30th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Controversy over bar trading hours has polarised authorities, with police contesting Auckland Council’s provisional Local Alcohol Policy.

The two authorities are fighting over the time bars should be shut to best prevent alcohol-related brawls.

The argument has come down to one hour that they can’t agree on. A lot can happen in 60 minutes.

Both sides cite contradictory research and statistics to back up their arguments.

A 2013 law change limited the latest closing hour of bars to 4am and handed over the power to councils to enforce earlier closing times and one-way door policies within their own jurisdictions.

Since then, 20 councils have delivered provisional alcohol policies that are now under appeal.

The Auckland Council has proposed closing bars in the city centre at 4am, and a 3am curfew for suburban bars.

The council justified its position by saying closing city-centre bars any earlier would result in a mass exodus of punters at the same time, likely increasing violence.

Police say the council’s argument is “just wrong” and want to see suburban bars close by 1am and city-centre bars shut by 3am – with a 1am one-way door policy – to reduce the consumption of alcohol and, in turn, the fights.

However, police data obtained by the Herald on Sunday under the Official Information Act shows violent disorder offences, often linked to alcohol intake, have decreased consistently over the past nine years – from 3569 in 2007 to 2541 last year – in the Auckland Central area.

That is around a 30% decrease.  So on average there are eight offences a night, for a city of 1.4 million people.

Davey says the council must decide whether it’s more important to keep bars open an hour later to appease the alcohol and hospitality industries or to close them earlier and reduce the levels of harm.

Inspector Davey is sounding like a wild eyed lobbyist rather than a rational public servant.

He thinks the only interests served by having bars open later are the alcohol and hospitality industries.

No. The tens of thousands of Aucklanders who like to be able to go into town around midnight and drink and dance for a few hours. Of whom, the vast majority have a good time and don’t hurt themselves or anyone else.

But, Davey counters that reducing the availability of alcohol by even one hour would prevent “some of the needless death, serious injury and violence”.

I’m sure it would. But that is an argument to also go back to 6pm closing. It is about the balance.

Sort of funny

April 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sergeant Cameron Browne told the authority that, when he entered the bar with police last month, Andrews was at the DJ booth.

“He used the PA system to tell patrons that the police officers were not real, they were in fact strippers,” Browne said.

“He encouraged patrons to pay police $20 to strip, and continued to encourage patrons to taunt police until the compliance was complete.”

Heh, I find that pretty funny actually.

The officers also testified to often finding intoxicated people in the bar. Some reported seeing drunk people leaving through an upstairs window. 

Thom said he assessed two drunk women, barely able to stand, in the bar who “were among the worse I have seen in some time”. 

Based on serving drunken patrons, it is possible the bar should lose their licence – but not for joking the Police are strippers.

The challenge is determining if they were served at this bar while drunk, or whether they drank elsewhere and then came to Ruby Rabbit.

Rent it out to the Police Museum

April 26th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The future of New Zealand’s oldest purpose-built police station is in the hands of Wellingtonians.

A local couple are the proud new owners of the heritage Mt Cook police barracks in Buckle St. …

The Buckle St, category A heritage listed commercial premises, was built in 1894 by prisoners. It was home to The Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery until the completion of Te Papa in the late 1990s.

The building, at the base of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, is currently tenanted to several small companies on short-term leases.

Bayleys Wellington salesman James Higgie, who is marketing the building for sale by tender, said the new owners, from Wellington, had no immediate plans for the building.

As I blogged previously, this building would be ideal for the Police Museum – the oldest police station in NZ, and right in the middle of the Pukeahu heritage area. A memorial to fallen police officers would fit the nature of the area perfectly.

The current Police Museum (at the Police College) gets around 7,500 visitors a year (from last published stats). Move it to Buckle Street as a tenant, and I reckon you’d get at least ten times as many visitors.

Collins vs Goff

April 22nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police Minister Judith Collins and the police have spoken out against claims that community stations in Auckland and the rest of the country will close, saying that is incorrect.

 NZME had reported that sources within NZ Police had claimed there are plans for the 16 to at least temporarily shut their doors and that some may never re-open.

According to NZME, information provided by independent sources and also by Labour MP and Auckland Mayoral candidate Phil Goff claimed that “police may be under pressure to reduce their footprint and under pressure to close stations”.

Interesting that Goff has been using his parliamentary role to help his campaign by asking numerous parliamentary written questions on Auckland issues.

Collins quickly responded, saying that she was “really disappointed that Phil Goff is touting a false story to the media against New Zealand police”. …

Police  have denied the community station closure saying  that a new set of infrastructure design features are being introduced for safety measures at police front counters.

The new features are designed to deal with the most likely threats at publicly accessible police premises.

“Our review of existing infrastructure has highlighted a number of premises where more immediate practical steps are needed to increase security.  There are 105 stations we have identified in this category around New Zealand,” said Acting Assistant Commissioner District Operations, Bruce Bird.

“In some of these stations, one of the options may be to limit public access at times when constabulary staff are on the premises.

“This does not mean the stations will permanently close, but the public access at some stations may be, as an interim measure, restricted to those times when a constabulary/authorised officer is available to work at the front counter.”

So Goff is attacking the Police for making their staff safer and more secure from attack.

Police crime rate massively low

March 31st, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police officers were convicted of 52 offences over the past three years after they committed crimes ranging from speeding to drug-dealing and corruption.

Figures released by police under the Official Information Act reveal 11 sworn officers were convicted on 13 charges last year. There were 19 convictions recorded in 2014 and 20 in 2013.

The ideal number is of course zero, but is 13 convictions a year a high level or a low level? Are the Police as law breaking as the rest of the community? You would hope not. So what is the answer?

Well in the overall population there were 68,446 people convicted last year out of an adult population of around 3.5 million.

So the offending rate is around 19.6 per 1,000 people.

11 Police officers were convicted out of 9,048 sworn officers.

That is a Police offending rate of 1.4 per 1,000 officers.

So a Police officer is just 1/13th as likely to break the law.

Move the Police Museum to Buckle Street?

March 23rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s oldest purpose-built police station is up for sale.

It is the first time the historic Wellington landmark, with a Rateable Value (RV) of $1.5 million, has been placed on the open market

The Buckle St, category A heritage listed commercial premises, was built in 1894 by prisoners. It was home to The Dominion Museum and National Art Gallery until the completion of Te Papa in the late 1990s.

Why not make it the home of the Police Museum? No one ever visits the Museum at the current site in the Police College.

You could have a memorial to fallen police officers there, which would fit in with the other memorials next door.

In that venue, it would get huge number of visitors.

The Police should look at this. Would be fantastic to have the Police Museum get more profile and visits.

You can’t give gunman potential hostages

March 10th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The mother of a man suspected of shooting four police officers in the Bay of Plenty is pleading with police to let family bring him out of the Kawerau house where he remains holed up.

The woman says her son, who Stuff has chosen not to name, is terrified of surrendering, but he is prepared to give himself up, if his family can accompany him.

The suspected gunman has been keeping in touch with whanau and friends by text message and social media from inside the house on Onepu Springs Road.

He has shot four people already. Why risk giving him hostages? He has a simple choice – surrender and not be shot, or don’t surrender and eventually risk being shot.

She said her son wanted he to come out freely, but was terrified of being sent to prison. She was also concerned about his safety.

So actually his concern is being arrested, not safety. That is her concern. Definitely you don’t give him potential hostages. The moment others are in the house, the ability of the Police to end the stand off is greatly reduced.

And if he was terrified of being sent to prison, he shouldn’t have shot four police officers. He also should choose a better career than drug dealer also.

“It’s just heartbreaking. We’re trying to help the police to diffuse the situation and they are not even listening to the whanau.”

Sad to see them blaming the Police, not him. The best way they can help is to persuade him to surrender.

He had been in trouble with the law previously, she said, but not for some time.

This week? This month?

My thoughts are with the four wounded officers, their families, friends and colleagues. And most of all with the Police at the scene who may have to risk their lives to bring this criminal to justice.

UPDATE: He has surrendered.

Police bullying supermarkets

December 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Do Wellingtonians really need to be able to buy alcohol after 10pm?

That question was posed on Monday at the first half of a liquor licence hearing for Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie, where there were also suggestions the supermarket should take some responsibility for alcohol-related incidents in the suburb.

Police and the Regional Medical Officer of Health are both putting the heat on Pak ‘n Save to peg back the number of hours it sells alcohol, which is currently between 7am and 11pm.

Police want the hours cut-off at 10pm. But Pak ‘n Save argues that would be unfair given the Countdown supermarket across the road and near-by off-licences would not be subject to the same restrictions.

Once again the Police are trying to set policy. The City Council, under the law, sets maximum hours for off-licenses. But the Police tries to bully supermarkets into different hours.

Pak ‘n Save owner-operator Dean Galt said any restrictions would simply send those looking for alcohol across the road to Countdown Kilbirnie, which had a 7am till 11pm licence, and they would likely do the rest of their grocery shopping there as well.

“Unless everyone is on the same page, no, it’s not going to change the problem,” he said.

“It’s about convenience. If we don’t offer the customers what they want, they will go elsewhere for the whole shop.”

Sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies, of Wellington Police, put it to Galt that most people buying alcohol after 10pm were not buying large amounts of groceries as well, so the supermarket would not be losing that much business.

The Police are wrong, and they are basically making stuff up. I’ve done work in this area and the vast majority of people buying alcohol from a supermarket late at night (or early morning) are buying groceries also. And further they are ot buying alcohol to drink that night, just as part of their regular shopping.

But Galt disagreed and pointed to sales figures he said showed the proportion of groceries sold after 10pm was much larger than its alcohol sales.

The Police should argue on the basis of evidence, not personal preference.

Pak ‘n Save Kilbirnie was banned from selling alcohol for five days in June after allowing a pair of 16-year-old boys to buy booze.

But police said the supermarket was otherwise responsible and if it agreed to the 10pm close-off time then the police would remove its objection to the licence renewal.

This is how the Police operate – agree to our terms or we’ll object to your licence. It’s a form of legalised blackmail.

Rapira-Davies said the supermarket needed to take some responsibility for the alcohol-related harm in the Kilbirnie area.

“It’s our experience that people purchasing alcohol late at night are intending to consume it later that night,” he said.

From bottle stores yes, from supermarkets no. The majority are buying it with their weekly groceries to consume later.

“A proportion of the alcohol harm pictures needs to be recognised as belonging to the applicant … the largest volume [in the area] is sold by this licensee.

None of the alcohol harm belongs to the applicant. It belongs to those who do the harm. The applicant’s responsibility is to act within the law, not sell to minors or intoxicated persons.

“It’s not unreasonable for us to have formed that view.”

Actually it is. It is like blaming banks for people who take out cash and spend it on the pokies. The Police in Wellington constantly bully supermarkets.

Police back down

December 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have apologised to “censored” gang researcher Dr Jarrod Gilbert after he was deemed unfit to conduct research and banned from accessing basic police data due to his gang links.

In a statement issued on Monday Police strategy deputy chief executive Mark Evans said matters raised by Gilbert in relation to a research application made by the company Independent Research Solutions in 2014 had been reviewed.

Gilbert spent a decade researching gangs for his book, Patched: the history of gangs in New Zealand. The book was partly based on research but also on ingratiating himself with criminals.

His only association with gangs was for research and he had not done anything he could be charged for, he said.

Evans confirmed Gilbert’s research project was approved in late 2014 and Police provided all information requested by the research team in July 2015. 

Other members of Gilbert’s team were cleared by Police vetting and Evans said Police accepted a mistake was made when the nature of Gilbert’s research proposal was not fully taken into account, and the reason that his links to gangs were likely to show up.

“I have now written to Dr. Gilbert explaining the Police position and confirming there are no issues with him having access to the requested data for this project following further consideration of all the circumstances,” Evans said.

As a result Police are amending guidelines around vetting of researchers, including high-level oversight and more detailed case-by-case consideration on vetting checks on researchers which are negative.

Police will also update the research agreement and remove any language that may be interpreted as restricting the independence of academic research.

Very pleased they are changing their contracts which gave Police a veto over any research findings that required their co-operation, and also that common sense has won out in distinguishing between a gang associate, and someone who associated with gangs for the purpose of academic research.

As I said previously, I actually think all government datasets should by default be available in machine readable format to the public, less any private information that could identify individuals.

The Heather du Plessis-Allan Police investigation

December 2nd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A police search of journalist Heather du Plessis-Allan’s home has been criticised by MPs as a waste of resources and an example of the force’s “tunnel-visioned approach”.

MPs generally should keep out of Police operational issues.

Du-Plessis Allan’s husband, broadcaster Barry Soper, says the police investigation over her gun story is like “taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut”. 

Soper said he was warned by police on Monday afternoon they had a search warrant for the couple’s Wellington apartment.

Three officers turned up at 8am on Tuesday, and searched the dining room and two bedrooms, rifling through bedside cabinets and a large chest of drawers, including a receipt drawer.

Du Plessis-Allan was in Auckland, where she is based during the week for work, but police had not searched that property.

Police flew down from Auckland to search the Wellington property.

Soper said: “It would seem an overreaction to what was obviously a real problem and nobody can tell us at the moment how many guns are out there in New Zealand without a licence. This [story] was all about gun control and not allowing guns to be in the hands of the wrong people.”

What he found most extraordinary was police had since closed the loophole under which du Plessis-Allan had bought the gun online.

“I did make the point to the cops at one stage who were in the apartment that surely they could be the authors of their own misfortune in all of this because do they want more guns in circulation? And the detective senior sergeant turned to me and said ‘no comment’.”

It was worrying that his wife could be charged “but the fact is that the story was done in the full knowledge that there could have been repercussions I believe”.

MediaWorks chief executive Mark Weldon said: “The police are doing their job in the course of their investigations and that is perfectly normal.”

He said Mediaworks, which owns TV3, stood by the Story team “and their focus on the flaw in the mail order gun system that allowed people to buy guns without valid firearms licences”.

“It was an important piece of journalism and it has resulted in immediate changes to the rules around the mail order system which have now addressed that serious flaw.

“The public interest has clearly been served by the spotlight the Story team have put on this issue.”

My thoughts are this:

  1. The story was in the public interest. It showed a significant loophole in how the law was being enforced. You should not be able to get a gun delivered to you in the mail by putting down some fake details.
  2. There is no doubt Heather DPA broke the law in pursuing the story. She knew this.
  3. I don’t see why the Police need to execute search warrants, let alone fly three Police officers down to Wellington. HDPA admitted on air what she did. She showed the forms. They don’t need a sample of her handwriting – she stated on air she signed the form!!
  4. The only thing the Police need to do is decide whether it is in the public interest to prosecute HDPA. I don’t think it is as her story was in the public interest, and probably could not have been done without filling in false details on a form. There was no personal gain for her and no threat to safety.

UPDATE: A former Judge has agreed with me that there was no need for the search warrant – they could have just asked for a handwriting sample

Police censorship

November 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert writes in the Herald:

Sitting in front of me is a 20-page document. It’s my police file. It doesn’t say much, because 17 of those pages are completely blacked out.

I requested my file because I’ve been deemed by the police to be unfit to conduct research – I’ve been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It’s also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my “association with gangs”. This association won’t surprise many people: I did New Zealand’s largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world.

To get my results I used – in part – an ethnographic method; in other words I hung out with the gangs.

I have been deemed unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals through studying crime. Bloody hell.

This is ludicrous.

Famous economist Steven Levitt once did research on the economics of drug dealing for his book Freakonomics with Stephen Dubner. That involved spending time with gangs and drug dealers. Would the NZ Police also regard Steven Levitt as unfit to conduct research?

And a 20 page file on an academic? Sure if he has spent time with gangs as part of his research, I would expect some incidental notes about him, but 20 pages?

This Kafkaesque nightmare began when I was leading five researchers (all but one have PhDs and two are full professors) who were working for a large government agency wanting to investigate alcohol-related harms. Part of this project required some basic crime data from the police. It was then that I discovered the lengths police are going to to control research. This is not simply through excluding academics, as they did me, but through contracts that have to be signed to gain basic information. In our case legal opinions suggest that it should be available to any person who asks for it under the Official Information Act.

I would go further. I think all government data, by default, should be publicly available in machine readable format. Obviously personal details should not be included, but I’d love to see the criminal sector databases on convictions, sentencing, rehabilitation etc publicly available so NGOs, researchers and even companies can analyse the data and look for trends, correlations, possible causative factors etc.

The degree of control the police sought over research findings and publications was more than trifling. The research contracts demand that a draft report be provided to police. If the results are deemed to be “negative” then the police will seek to “improve its outcomes”. Both the intent and the language would have impressed George Orwell.

Researchers unprepared to yield and make changes face a clause stating the police “retain the sole right to veto any findings from release”. In other words, if an academic study said something the police didn’t like – or heaven forbid was in any way critical of the police – then the police could stop it being published.

Outrageous. This is not Police private data – this is Government data funded by taxpayers.

These demands were supported by threats. The contracts state that police will “blacklist” the researchers and “any organisations connected to the project … from access to any further police resources” if they don’t abide by police wishes.

Sigh.

After seeking information from the police about their sinister research contracts and to understand why I am banned, I am little the wiser. I have been told the decision to ban me is being reviewed. What I do know is that in an open democracy that puts such a high currency on free speech, the police should not be seeking to muzzle legitimate academic inquiry.

The Police should remove the ban on Dr Gilbert, and change their contracts. It is far enough to perhaps have a clause requiring them to see a draft of any research so they can critique it, but there should be no right of veto.

And further the Government should look at getting this data out of the exclusive control of state agencies, and into the public domain. If (for example) both the Sensible Sentencing Trust and JustSpeak could access criminal and corrections databases, then I’m sure we’d end up with better debate and understanding of criminal justice policies.

It took an OIA request and many months to discover that since the three strikes law came into force, the reoffending rate for strike offences has dropped 62% or so. That shouldn’t require an OIA request. Researchers should be able to find this out for themselves at any time.

Is Heather going to jail?

October 22nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan has found herself in the midst of a police investigation after illegally buying a gun for her current affairs show.

Auckland City Police has announced it has opened a criminal investigation into the purchase of the gun over the internet.

The purchase was made by the TV3 reporter for a piece on current affairs show Story, due to air on Wednesday night. 

In a statement released on Wednesday evening, a police spokeswoman did not name du Plessis-Allan but said police would not rule out charging the woman who bought the gun. 

The police investigation stemmed from a report “from a woman alleging that false details had been used to fraudulently obtain a firearm via an online dealer”, the police statement said.

“For anyone to possess a firearm without having the necessary license is a criminal offence and, if proven in court, could result in a sentence of up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $1000.

I doubt any prosecution would succeed as it was done to highlight the system was not working. But there may be consequences for signing a document with false details.

“Charges for obtaining by deception, if proven, carries penalties ranging from three months imprisonment up to seven years imprisonment depending on the value of the item obtained.”

The Police are embarrassed that Heather showed up the flaws in their system. They should fix the system rather than go on a vendetta.

Well done NZ Police

October 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Police have announced:

A 60 year-old Auckland businessman has been charged in connection with the criminal blackmail threat to poison infant formula with 1080, made public in March this year.

This follows the execution of five search warrants in Auckland and the Rangitikei district this morning.

He has been charged with 2 counts of Blackmail, each charge relating to the threat letters sent to Fonterra and Federated Farmers in November 2014.

Blackmail is punishable by a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment.

The accused will appear in the Manukau District Court this afternoon.

Great work to identify them and make an arrest.

Hopefully they will not get name suppression. It will be interesting, if they do not, to learn about their background and assumed motives.

Maybe they should have tasered him, not pepper sprayed him?

September 13th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police have apologised for pepper-spraying a schoolgirl in the face while trying to arrest her father. …

Bay of Plenty district commander superintendent Andy McGregor said the girl was “accidently contaminated with pepper spray” just after 5.30pm – and blamed her father Jack “Blu” Kira, who he said violently resisted arrest.

“We’re sorry for the obvious distress and pain this would have caused the girl during the incident and are pleased she is okay,” he said.

“However, had it not been for the actions of the man involved, officers would not have had to use pepper spray.”

The spraying happened during a routine traffic stop. Police said Kira refused to give his details and tried to drive off.

The officer attempted to remove the keys but his arm was trapped when the man allegedly wound up the window.

“As the officer pulled his arm free, the window broke, causing minor cuts. Unfortunately during the arrest, a girl who was in the car with the man was accidentally contaminated by some of the spray.

“It is also sad that she is an innocent victim who has had to witness this incident, which could have been completely avoided.”

A police spokesman said the man was now facing two charges of aggravated assault, and one charge each of failing to stop, and giving false details.

 

I’d say the responsibility is 99% the father’s.

I’d give 1% responsibility to the Police as with hindsight it would have been better if they tasered the father, instead of pepper sprayed him, as that doesn’t affect others in the car.

More activism with no evidence

August 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New figures collected by Regional Public Health suggests benefits from pushing back the cut-off time for selling alcohol to 4am has worn off, with binge-drinkers – university students in particular – back to their old habits.

In other words, as predicted, the change of closing times didn’t work. But instead of admitting this, they claim try more of the same.

Police and Regional Public Health began experimenting in January with supporting new bottle stores in the CBD if they agree to restrict their operating hours and sell “premium” liquor only.

Since then, four licences have been granted to new bottle stores that agree not to sell the cheap stuff, while another existing bottle store has pegged back its hours and promised to deal only in high-quality booze.

Stephen Palmer, a Wellington region medical officer of health, said another bottle store in Cuba St was being encouraged to go down the same path.

The aim was not to run mainstream beer out of town, but to reduce its availability and “nudge” the public towards drinking smaller amounts of more expensive beer and wine, he said.

Palmer put Tui, Lion Red, DB Draught and Heineken in the mainstream category, while the likes of Tuatara and Moa were more at the craft beer end of the spectrum.

This is outrageous. The Police and health officials are now trying to dictate what brands of beer can be sold. I’m a fan of craft beer, but to say you’ll only support granting an alcohol licence to outlets that only stock craft beer is taxpayer funded activism which goes well beyond their statutory role.

Police and Regional Public Health were now opposing all liquor licence applications for “mainstream” bottle stores, he said.

So the NZ Police now want to decide what brands of beer are okay to sell. The Minister should bash the Commissioner ears and warn him that public confidence in the Police will decline, if they continue this social activism.

Fewer retailers and bars selling booze to minors

August 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The number of people appearing before the courts for selling alcohol to minors halved between 2012 and 2014, despite an increase in police stings.

Police figures show 82 people were prosecuted for selling alcohol to minors at on and off-licences New Zealand wide in 2012 operations and 81 in 2013. In 2014 that figure nearly halved to 42. …

Police carried out 2839 controlled purchase operations in 2012 and caught 258 premises selling alcohol to minors. In 2013 they carried out 2771 and caught 232. In 2014 they carried out 3013 and caught 224.

So the strike rate in 2012 was 9.1%, in 2013 it was 8.4% and in 2014 it was 7.4%.

Hopefully this means that bars and retailers are being more stringent in checking for ID.

All cops to get tasers

July 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

All frontline police response staff will now routinely carry tasers.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced the new initiative from Police Headquarters in Wellington this morning, saying the change was about enhancing the safety of New Zealand communities and police staff.

The initiative meant tasers could be carried by appropriately trained staff at all times while they were on duty.

Those staff were level one trained police staff, the majority of who were frontline police staff, Mr Bush said.

There are approximately 5500 police staff trained as level one responders, Mr Bush said.

Currently, these staff could access tasers from a lockbox in frontline police vehicles if required.

Mr Bush said the decision to role out tasers to all frontline police staff was made following detailed research, which showed the taser was successful in de-escalating violent situations.

“The reality is that police officers often enter into high risk situations.

If you don’t want our Police to be routinely armed, then you should support this.

If an offender has a knife, then it is very dangerous for a police officer to try and take them on with a baton or even something like capsicum spray. So without tasers, you need a gun.

Steven Wallace was shot as he was on a rampage with a baseball bat. If Police had tasers back then, he might be alive.

The Police published the results of three years of taser use in 2013.

  • Tasers were displayed in only 35 out of every 10,000 apprehensions and used in only 5 out of 10,000 apprehensions
  • Tasers only have to be used once in eight times they are displayed. Seven in eight times the display of it incentivises the offender to surrender
  • Only 1% of taser events (includes just displaying) resulted in injury to offenders

Have the Police decriminalised cannabis?

July 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

weed

Salient reports:

Chris Fowlie is the head of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and he really doesn’t like the way the police enforce the Misuse of Drugs Act. In a recent post on The Daily Blog, he argued that the authorities maliciously target harmless dope smokers, causing them far more harm than a joint ever could.

The statistics he cites appear to back up his argument: since 1994 there have been nearly half a million drug arrests, accounting for 11 per cent of all recorded crime. 85 per cent of the arrests were for cannabis, and 87 per cent of those were for personal amounts. On average, that equates to the police arresting 15,800 users a year for possession of personal amounts of pot. That’s 43 a day, or one every 33 minutes.

Fowlie says these statistics “are illustrative of how drug policing in New Zealand has gone off the rails”. But actually, the opposite is true: a closer look at the data shows that in fact there has been a huge decline in police arrests for possession and use over time. In averaging out arrests over two decades, Fowlie focusses on the noise and misses the signal.

You can see the trend above.

In the period between 1994 and 2014, annual recorded offences for possession of all illicit drugs halved. Offences for cannabis possession specifically did likewise. More interestingly, recorded offences for using illicit drugs fell from 1,307 down to 260, which was largely driven by 1,046 fewer cannabis use offences. The Police prosecute significantly fewer people for possession and use of drugs than they did two decades ago.

And this has occurred at a time when Ministry of Health figures suggest that the prevalence of drugs in New Zealand has remained stable and, particularly in the case of cannabis, relatively high. The data shows that 42 per cent of Kiwis aged 15 and over have smoked pot at some point in their lives, and 11 per cent have smoked pot in the past year. That’s 397,000 past-year tokers. The same survey showed that only two per cent of past year cannabis smokers reported experiencing legal problems as a result of their use.

So why have arrests halved if use has remained the same? There’s a simple answer: the Police are decriminalising cannabis in New Zealand.

I wouldn’t go that far. I would say that the Police are sensibly prioritising crimes that actually have victims.

Another explanation for the decline is that there has been a wider shift in the way that police approach low-level criminal offending. Wilkins says that “it would be a mistake to say it is a change that is specific to drugs. It reflects a wider change in police philosophy.” He believes the trend extends to other low-level crime, such as petty theft, and says the decline in arrests is a case of better allocation of police resources. “There’s a desire to be more effective and efficient, so that means reprioritising low-level offending.”

This is supported by the data. At the same time as possession and use charges for cannabis have come down, the number of manufacture and import charges have increased. The last 20 years have also seen the rise of meth, which Wilkins says has taken up more policing resources.

“If you’re a policeman and you have two markets—meth and cannabis—you have to ask yourself, ‘which is the best use of my time?’”

And I’m for prioritising meth over cannabis.

Encouragingly, Police Commissioner Mike Bush agrees that alternative approaches to prosecution can lead to better outcomes for users. Last month he heaped praise on Auckland Constable Scott Wolfe, “whose empathy for a methamphetamine addict helped turn her life around”.

In a post on his “Commissioner’s Blog”, Bush explained that Constable Wolfe “arrested the woman for possession of a cannabis pipe and, recognising the signs of methamphetamine use, discovered she had a heavy addiction and was living in a car”. Instead of prosecuting the woman through the traditional court system, Constable Wolfe referred her instead to Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou—The New Beginnings Court, which is focussed on homeless and disadvantaged people.

“She’s now in rehabilitation, has reconnected with her child and made huge improvements in her life,” said the Commissioner. “This is a superb example of the difference we can all make by showing a little understanding and using our initiative.” Indeed.

Yep, a good call.

Yes, there is. Professor Mark Bennett, a lecturer at Victoria University’s Law School, says that “if a certain offence will not be followed up on and there is little danger of detection and/or prosecution, there are questions around the legitimacy of this from both a rule of law and democratic perspective.”

The police can’t just decide to stop enforcing the laws of the land without there being repercussions. Dr. Dean Knight, another law lecturer at Victoria, says that one of the roles of the police is to follow the democratic will of the people and enforce the laws they voted for. “The Police probably shouldn’t effectively repudiate laws through non-enforcement,” he says.

We might think it’s fine for the Police to decriminalise pot, but what happens if one day they decided to stop prosecuting theft, say? Or assault? Or corruption? This is particularly concerning given the fact that the public is largely unaware of changes in police policy.

We already have this with electoral offences. Over many years the Police have shown no inclination to prosecute electoral law breaches.

But there is always going to be a degree of Police discretion over how actively they enforce some laws. Otherwise they’d be arresting jaywalkers or the like.

Smart Police work

July 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been snooping on people’s Facebook profiles, and using the evidence to carry out drug raids.

The monitoring has been exposed by members of a blackmarket Facebook group, who complained of receiving letters out of the blue from police, warning them they were being watched.

One unidentified user received a letter from the Canterbury Organised Crime Squad, dated July 15, warned that their membership of a group suspected to be aiding illegal drug deals had been noticed. 

They might wish to “review” their membership of the group, the letter suggested – and it had a card for a drug abuse helpline stapled to it.

“Police have been monitoring your Facebook profile and established that you are engaged in a Facebook group that actively sells and trades in controlled drugs,” the letter said.

“Committing offences against [drug laws] can lead to penalties, including imprisonment.” 

Police confirmed on Monday that they were monitoring social media pages, and sometimes using the evidence they found to mount raids.

This is smart work by the Police. And it isn’t spying or snooping. If you’re stupid enough to join public groups devoted to criminal activity, you shouldn’t be surprised the Police take an interest.

Is an evacuation compulsory?

June 27th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A south Taranaki grandmother says she was shoved to the ground and handcuffed by police after she objected to being forced from her house in the face of rapidly rising flood waters.

Police came to Dot Bowlin’s Waitotara property late on Saturday afternoon as they told everyone in her street to leave.

But Mrs Bowlin, 67, told them she wasn’t ready to go as the water wasn’t yet a threat to her house – situated on a rise – and she had to organise her animals.

She said she was pleading her case to stay when a younger policeman allegedly threw her to the ground and put her in handcuffs, aggravating an arm injury.

Police yesterday confirmed Mrs Bowlin was handcuffed, but said they could not comment on how she was treated.

There are two sides to every story, but what concerns me here is that this was not a case of refusing to be arrested, or fleeing a crime. This was choosing not to evacuate. Do the Police have the authority to force people to evacuate? Surely their role should be to advise and assist, but if someone wants to stay – that is there decision. They should be told, they won’t be assisted if they stay, but is an evacuation order compulsory?

One law for all?

June 17th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Police officers are being told not to ticket unlicensed Maori drivers caught behind the wheel.

The Counties Manukau Police guidelines are detailed in a policy, leaked to TVNZ last night.

It states police should refer Maori drivers for training if they are pulled over without a licence or in breach of their conditions instead of fines.

Superintendent John Tims told NewstalkZB this morning the document should have been worded better.

Everyone was entitled to the compliance, not just Maori drivers, he said.

“[The document] is probably not worded as well as it can be.

“There’s two parts to this: the compliance is for everyone, including Maori, and it is about making sure there’s less deaths on the road, less crashes,” Mr Tims said.

Maori drivers were “considered” when they were pulled over by police, he said, but were included in the policy simply as part of the Turning the Tide national policy.

PassRite Driving Academy founder Fred Bardon said it was a great way of getting people licensed to drive – but only if it applied it all drivers.

Maori should not be the only targeted group “…because there are other offenders that are doing the same thing and we need to be across the board so that everybody gets the same opportunity”, he told NewstalkZB.

A policy of referral for training rather than prosecution is fine, so long as it applies to all.

The Police say the document was simply not worded well.

It would be interesting to seek stats, if they exist, on how many drivers of each ethnicity have been referred for training for unlicensed driving, rather than prosecuted.

UPDATE: A reader sends in this satire:

HOT OFF THE PRESS FROM POLICE HQ

Counties-Manukau Police have today announced an extension to their successful policy of not enforcing the law for ethnicities that are over-represented in crime statistics.

“Our exclusion from enforcing the drivers license law with respect to Maori has been a roaring success.  We now don’t ticket any Maori, or person claiming to be Maori.  This has made a massive positive impact on our recorded statistics.

“The fact that prevalence of Maori driving without a license has skyrocketed as a result of this policy, should not be seen as a negative outcome.  This is about “Turning the tide”.

“We have decided to extend the policy to the crime of aggravated robbery, an offence for which Maori are even more over-represented than drivers’ license offences.

“Now, when we receive a report or complaint of an aggravated robbery, we will ask the caller or complainant “Does one or more offenders appear to be Maori?”  If the answer is yes, we will not attend the incident or follow up the complaint, unless the Maori offender/s do not return the money they have stolen within two months.

“We expect this new policy to be an incredible success, with the number of arrests of Maori on suspicion of committing aggravated robbery expected to plummet.

“While we expect aggravated robberies by Maori and others pretending to be Maori, to skyrocket, we ask the public to consider the benefits of “Turning the Tide”.”

ENDS

Please direct any media enquiries to our policy advisor, Hone Harawira.

Uber charges dropped

June 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have dropped charges against 16 Uber drivers who were fined while  carrying passengers using the popular ridesharing app.

Uber is a free smartphone app, which connects passengers to freelance drivers in private cars.

Uber now has more than 1000 drivers in Auckland and Wellington and aims to expand throughout New Zealand.

But in Auckland, police began stopping some Uber drivers over the New Year period charging them or issued them infringement notices for using their smartphone app as a meter – a breach that would make them subject to tough taxi regulations.

Good to see common sense win out. It is not the role of the Police to work on behalf of the Taxi Federation.

Cop charged with murder

April 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A white police officer who gunned down a fleeing, unarmed black man appeared to plant his service-issue Taser gun at the side of the victim’s lifeless body, according to shocking videotape which emerged in the wake of the senseless killing.

Patrolman Michael Slager, 33, opened fire on father-of-four Walter Scott, 50, in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday morning after reportedly stopping him over a broken tail light.

Slager was charged with murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty after the incendiary footage emerged. The officer had previously defended his actions, saying he feared for his life after Scott wrestled his Taser gun from him during a scuffle.

However, cellphone footage from the scene showed Scott getting around 15-20 feet away before Slager opened fire with seven shots in quick succession followed by an eighth. The 50-year-old U.S. Coast Guard veteran was hit five times.

Thankfully there was cellphone footage of what happened.

You don’t shoot an unarmed person eight times in the back, for fleeing from Police.

And you don’t try and plant manufactured evidence on him that he was armed.

It does make you wonder how often this happens, without video footage to contradict the official version?

The Roastbusters report

March 20th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The IPCA has said:

An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found a number of significant deficiencies in the original Police investigations into the alleged offending  by a group of young men in Auckland who called themselves the ‘Roastbusters’.

Details to come.

“The supervisory oversight of the individual cases was inadequate and the investigating staff failed to properly consider all available offences in determining whether or not to prosecute the young men,” Sir David said.

This is perhaps the key area.

“The Authority found that all of the Police officers involved treated the young women and their families with courtesy and compassion and maintained good contact with them.

“However, the officers’ contact and interaction with the young men who were the subjects of the investigations and their families was inadequate or non-existent. The failure of Police to make contact meant the young men’s parents were never made aware of several of the incidents and details of their sons’ involvement and therefore they were unable to intervene or act to address the behaviour.”

That’s bad. Even if you can’t charge them, you should be letting the parents know there have been complaints.

“Despite the failings in this case, the Authority has not found any evidence of ongoing and widespread poor practice nationally in the Police investigation or prosecution of child abuse or sexual assault cases.

Somewhat reassuring.

From the report:

However, it is concerned that in several of the cases, because officers concluded that there was insufficient evidence to proceed without the cooperation of the young women, they decided that no further action was required. They therefore overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behaviour and preventing its recurrence.

In other words just because you can’t charge them, doesn’t mean you can’t do something else.

Under section 134 of the Crimes Act 1961, everyone11 who has a sexual connection with, or does an indecent act on, a young person (under the age of 16 years) has committed an offence and is liable to a term of imprisonment (see paragraph 132). There is no question that these young men were aware that the young women involved in the six cases investigated by CPT staff were under 16 years. As a result of their interaction with Police officers, it is also evident that several of the young men (certainly by the time the investigation into Case 1 had concluded) were aware that they were committing an offence, irrespective of their own ages.

Officer D told the Authority that he and Officer C determined that prosecutions under section 134 were “inappropriate” because two of the three young men were under 16 at the time of the offending. He added that section 134 is intended for “consenting parties” and that, if it had been used to bring a prosecution in Case 3, it would have implied that the Police did not believe the victim’s initial account that she was not consenting.

The Authority does not accept the validity of this reasoning, as there were a number of aggravating features in these cases that should have prompted consideration of such a prosecution. In four of these cases the young women were between two and three years younger than the young men involved. They were vulnerable (due to factors such as their level of intoxication); the extent to which they were willing parties was at best equivocal; and they were subject to sexual acts by more than one young man. The behaviour of the young men was demonstrably unacceptable and required a response.

This is where the Police really stuffed up. They misunderstood the law with their reasoning that they could not use s134 because consent was disputed. That’s a really basic error, and while not every police officer will know the law well – they should have supervisors and a checking process that would have picked this up.

In our view, the fact that the parties are close together in age, while a relevant factor, is not determinative. Moreover, it is perverse to conclude that a prosecution for sexual violation cannot be brought because there is insufficient evidence to prove lack of consent beyond reasonable doubt, but then to reject a prosecution under section 134 on the basis that it would imply the existence of consent. The reality is that a prosecution under section 134 says nothing about the presence or absence of consent, because it is simply irrelevant to the facts that need to be proved.

And a prosecution under s134 would almost certainly have been successful as consent is not a factor.

The report is quite damning of Waitemata Police. The failings were significant enough that disciplinary action should be considered for the officers involved.

A good cop

March 7th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald profiles former country cop Gavin Benney:

Gavin Benney has always liked to do things his own way, rules or no rules. When a beach house on his Northland patch was burgled, he knew the thief was a local man who had moved to Tapu, 19km north of Thames.

“I rang the Thames police and asked them to try and find this guy and it was just too hard for them,” says Benney.

“So I drove down there, went to this guy’s house, knocked on his door – no search warrant, nothing. He opens the door, couldn’t believe it, didn’t know how I’d found him. Got the stolen gear, which he had in the house, and took him to the Thames police and locked him up.

“And I did get in a little bit of shit for that because I didn’t get permission. But if I’d asked for permission to go, they’d say no. You’d send it to Thames, some cop would get it, they would sit on it … And the cops are busy, but to me that’s the important stuff to go and do.”

We need more cops like this.

In 2010 he got a call from a man whose boat had been stolen from Whananaki 12 years earlier. The owner said the boat had turned up on Trade Me in an auction. Benney located the advertiser north of Kaikohe but found the local police “unhelpful”, so he drove north with the original owner and reunited him with his boat. He got an official bollocking for that too, he says. Another time he and a dairy farmer tracked down stolen stock outside his area without notifying local police. He got a search warrant but got told off again.

How dare he not get permission to solve crimes.

He is proud of the crime statistics that show he solved between 60 and 65 per cent of all reported crime, compared with the 50 per cent average for all New Zealand, and 50 per cent of burglaries, compared with only 10 per cent nationally.

Excellent.

In fact, even some of the villains rate him. The book’s foreword, by an anonymous local drug dealer and small-time thief, calls him “hard but fair”. It describes Benney walking into a room of “pretty serious crims” in his customary policing uniform – shorts, T-shirt and Jandals – and being treated with respect, partly because most of them played rugby with him.

Love it. Small town NZ.

This approach may have endeared Benney to locals but not to some of his bosses. Benney says he had regular run-ins over his slack dress code, using the police-issue 4WD for crayfishing trips with his friend Roger Ballard, the author’s husband, while he was on call, and often not answering his phone immediately because he was busy playing tennis or hockey.

Crayfishing is an excellent use of his vehicle!