Police back down

Stuff reports:

have apologised to “censored” gang researcher Dr 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.

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