Committed to making New Zealand the safest country?

Insights Newsletter
3 April, 2020

In a Select Committee this week, then-Police Commissioner Mike Bush expressed his unwillingness to release the “complex” guidelines his officers are using to enforce lockdown.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of the police with secret regulations you can’t break doesn’t spark joy in my life. Also, with all due respect Commissioner, if you admitting the regulations are complex, how do you expect your officers to uphold them? 
What is most shocking, however, is his admission that the goalposts of regulations shift every day, ensuring accountability is as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.
Lord Sumption, a former UK Supreme Court Justice, has blasted the ‘disgraceful’ policing in the United Kingdom, fearing Britain is charging head-first into a police state. And this isn’t idle concern. Police in Derbyshire were criticised this week for posting a video taken with a drone, shaming people out on a walk in the countryside. Throughout the UK, people are intimidated socially or told by the Crown to go home.
We are starting to see similar stories closer to home. Reports are coming in from around the country of police stopping and searching passers-by or forcing people to return home who were on their way to buy medicine or groceries. To make matters worse, the police is not only permitting a dob-your-neighbour-in neighbourhood watch policy, it is encouraging this with a dedicated website to help citizens tell on their neighbours. This is a  policy unheard of since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
And how is this tool being used? Many people, confused about the lockdown, have reported their neighbours for simply exercising outside. This wastes precious police time and creates an atmosphere of fear.
Act MP David Seymour noted in the Select Committee that acting like the saviours of humanity while refusing to release guidelines really is just papering over the cracks.
Former Commissioner Mike Bush said it is up to the Courts to decide when the police overstep. I’m sorry, but no democracy following the rule of law runs a do-now-ask-later policy.
If the incoming new Commissioner Andrew Coster truly wants Kiwis to feel safe and secure, he should release clear guidelines. If the police breaks its guidelines, which we all know exist, we can hold officers to account, a luxury that no confused soul currently has.
We all acknowledge and even accept that during times of national crisis, some civil liberties are placed in the chilly bin. Yet, doesn’t the Magna Carta say that even the Crown is subject to the rule of law?

Stay in the loop: Subscribe to updates