“The Police Commissioner had a chance to take responsibility for his officers breaking the law and, having ducked the issue, is not fit for office,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“Requiring police to follow the law is what separates a free society like New Zealand from becoming a police state.
“The Privacy Commissioner clearly understands the principle at stake when he ruled that Police had invaded people’s privacy. He said ‘The primary function of Police is to maintain the law and there is an expectation that they will follow the law and their own policies at all times. This is especially the case when they engage with members of the public or use their powers to investigate offences.
“The Independent Police Conduct Authority has been crystal clear that “Police were not justified in establishing a vehicle checkpoint to identify individuals who had attended an Exit International meeting.”
“The Police accept in the IPCA report that the officers involved did not even consider whether they were breaking the law.
“The IPCA saw the Police’s post-hoc justification that s41 of the Crimes Act allows force to be used to prevent suicide for what it was, a weasel’s exercise in bottom covering.
“The Police response, put out by the Associate Commissioner (simultaneously with the IPCA report), is even weaker. They ‘accept that establishing a vehicle checkpoint to identify meeting attendees was unlawful. However, our staff acted in order to protect life and did not intentionally break the law.’
“A Police Commissioner who thinks it is okay for the Police to break the law so long as they mean well is intolerable. It amounts to saying New Zealanders’ rights are at the whim of what police officers think is good for them.
“In case there is any suggestion the police really were acting in people’s best interests, members of the public interviewed by the IPCA that police later visited said the found the visits ‘patronising’ and ‘threatening.’
In spite of that, there will be no consequences for anyone in the police who broke the law. What leadership is the Commissioner showing, and what message is that leadership sending to the nation’s Police officers, if breaking the law is just part of being on the beat?
“Despite the seriousness of this case, the Police have engaged in post-hoc self-justification and avoidance of responsibility. The Commissioner has said there will be no consequences for those Police officers who broke the law. If he cannot run the Police in line with the fundamental rights and freedoms of New Zealanders, then he is unfit for office and must resign.”