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Police have been in the news over the past few days and for all the wrong reasons.
The first story that caught my eye was one from Radio NZ in which it was revealed that Police try to assume people’s online identities.
It appears that police have been coercing people to hand over the login details for their social media accounts and then authorising them to assume their online identities.
I can't say I'm totally happy with this state of affairs, especially when those being placed under such duress may be less educated and aware of their rights than the average Kiwi should be.
Gaining access to someone's online accounts should require, at a bare minimum, a court-issued search warrant since it is tantamount to a search. Continued use of that account by police is a deception and a fraud that should also require court authorisation -- if it was allowed at all.
The next worrying report is also from Radio NZ and is titled Police reject IPCA finding on 'unjustified' search'
Once again it brings up the dual-standards that apply when it comes to the law.
When you or I break the law we are considered to have committed an offense by acting "illegally" and thus we are exposed to the risk of censure by the courts. Such censure is usually levied in the form of a fine or even a term of imprisonment.
However, when the police or other agencies of government break the laws that are put in place to protect us all, their actions are treated significantly differently. Rather than being an "illegal" act, such transgressions are called "unlawful". Despite the fact that this is a clear acknowledgement that the law has been broken, such acts rarely, if ever, carry any kind of penalty or punishment for those found guilty.
It's "do as we say, not as we do" when it comes to observing the laws of the land.
This appears to be exactly the case with this "unlawful" search and arrest.
Putting my pragmatic hat on for a moment I think the Police did the right thing here but on the other hand everyone (including the police and the courts) are surely bound to uphold the principles of the law. If we foresake our principles we foresake everything.
In this case the Independent Police Complaints Authority, the organisation whose raison d'etre is to ensure that the police act appropriately and that the rights of people are protected from inappropriate police actions, found wrong doing. However, this case also shows that the IPCA is a toothless "feel good" organisation which appears to exist solely to fool the public into believing that someone has their back, should the police overstep their powers.
The fact that nobody is being censured for this abuse of police powers once again demonstrates the dual standards that exist.
Finally, from Stuff, it seems that the police may be given special exemption from government policy that looks set to see many teachers, nurses and other civil servants lose their jobs -- if they refuse to be vaccinated.
This story suggests that government may refuse to mandate that police need to be vaccinated to retain their jobs. It could well be that those at the most risk and who pose a high risk of spreading the virus (front line police) may keep their jobs even if they refuse to vaccinate.
This is surely those dual standards I was talking about -- taken to the extreme.
One can only wonder why it is that the government is so protective of the police force -- giving them special exemption from the laws that they are put in place to protect the public from abuse, allowing them to ignore the findings of the organisation set up to investigate their activities and exempting them from the strict policies that apply to so many other front-line government employees.
Could we be just around the corner from the creation of a police state -- in which case it would be totally understandable that government needs to do everything it can to ensure that the police are strong in number and totally on-side with the politicians.
That is, of course, a tongue-in-cheek comment. Or is it?
New Zealanders are seeing many of their freedoms and rights set aside in the name of "public safety" and "the national interest" right now. My concerns are that once the immediate threat is over, we may find our political overlords somewhat less than enthusiastic about returning those freedoms to us. That is when having the police force ready, loyal and waiting to carry out the diktats of those politicians is most crucial.
And thus endeth today's consipiracy theory :-)
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