John Key made some interesting law & order proposals in his speech to the Police Association yesterday. Let’s take them in turn:
Introduction of Tasers
This is pretty non controversial to the vast majority. Giving Police a non lethal option between pepper spray (which is highly unreliable) and shooting someone is common sense. I would add a note of caution though that the Police will be under scrutiny to not use it unnecessarily as has happened occassionally with pepper spray.
As Key notes, the good thing about tasers is that in 85% of the cases where tasers were drawn and pointed, there was no need to fire as that caused the offender to desist.
It is likel, of course, tasers will also happen under the current Government. National is simply saying we support their rollout.
National is proposing that the threshold for being able to require a DNA test be lowered for being arrested or under investigation for crimes with a minimum seven year jail sentence, to being arrested for any crime which carries a jail term.
Now let us be in no doubt that DNA testing solves crimes, and that such a move will lead to more crimes being solved. And that is a good thing.
However there is a legitimate debate about where to draw the line for DNA testing. If you DNA tested every infant at birth, and every person entering NZ, then you would have a massive impact on reducing and solving crime – but I don’t think you need to be a hard core civil libertarian to say that would be a fairly creepy society to live in. One could end up with the state DNA testing litter on the road and instant fining people who provide a DNA match. Singapore would love it.
I do think the current threshold of offences with seven years or greater maximum sentence is too high. But I’m not sure lowering it all the way to any offence with potential jail time isn’t going a bit too far.
I would personally advocate it to be for offences with say two years or more maximum sentence. That would avoid DNA testing people arrested for blasphemous libel (one year) but still get burglars (five years) who often do go on to more serious crimes.
Instant Protection Orders
John Key makes a strong case for these:
Police are frequently called to domestic situations where it is blindingly clear that a mother or her children are under serious threat from an abusive and violent partner.
In these situations, police are often unable to act on their instinct to urgently protect these victims. Instead, victims, often battered women, are expected to apply to the courts for a protection order.
I think this is a long overdue idea. The current protection order system is somewhat of a farce. In 2005, 4236 people were charged with breaching protection orders according to the NZ Herald. Now’s that a national disgrace.
This is a good first step. I’d also like to see near automatic penalties for protection order breaches.
The Herald story on this aspect, has many groups in support. Women’s Refuge, Civil Liberties Council and the Police Association.
So overall, here’s how I’d mark the the three policies:
- Tasers 7.5/10 (would be 8 but some risk of inappropriate use)
- DNA testing of all arrestees of imprisonable offence 6.5/10
- Temporary Protection Orders 9/10