Friday 25 June 2010

Police in politics

National, under urgency and supported by ACT, Labour, New Zealand First, Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton (neither of whom I count as a party these days), passed legislation allowing police officers to stand in local body elections.
This would enable all Police employees to stand in local authority elections without being placed on leave, and if elected, they would not need to vacate their employment with the New Zealand Police.
While criminal law is set by Parliament, the police also enforce local bylaws. Keeping a separation between the folks writing laws and the folks enforcing them is one of those nice lines that help to keep the words "police" and "state" from becoming a compound noun.

ACT voted with National. Greens and Maori opposed. Like in every other vote I've seen recently on civil liberties versus increased police powers. Well, Rodney, I really hope your regulatory responsibility bill winds up being worth it. Because the price is looking awfully high. Are you really really really sure that you can get the legislation through in a form that will actually constrain future governments?

Says Chester Burrows:
National MP Chester Burrows, a former police officer, is not surprised the Greens refused to support the bill. He told the House the party has not once voted for any pro-police legislation since he has been in parliament.
And that's a bad thing?

Farrar says the main problem is that the legislation was passed under urgency. But No Right Turn's take is better:
[The ban] was imposed because the police are responsible for enforcing local authority by-laws, meaning that they would be both law-maker and law-enforcer if elected. This isn't just a basic conflict of interest - a quick perusal of this blog will show that local body policies around gang patches, boy racers and ASBOs have been some of the most contentious policing and human rights issues of recent years.
Ideally, the government should can the bill. But at the least, they should not pass it under urgency, and instead send it to select committee so the issue can be thoroughly investigated (and in particular, the police and local authorities can explain how they intend to prevent conflicts of interest and abuses of power from arising). But this is National, who seem to take a perverse pride in shitting all over our constitutional procedures so they can appear "firm" and "decisive". So I expect it'll be law by the end of the week.

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