Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Police culture in NZ under attack

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Isn't telephone technology wonderful. We all have this wonderful instrument to preserve accountability - the I-witness account derived from cellphone video footage. The NZ Herald has received footage of a police officer breaching the nation's laws which prohibit use of a cellphone whilst driving. Apparently, the police officers are partially exempt if the call is 'work related'. I guess we will never know because the officer will probably not be investigated, yet the answer is probably in the story. Apparently the officer was very 'animated', suggesting it was a personal call.
This is not a rare incident, and a senior NZ police officer acknowledges that, which highlights the point that there are 'honest minds' in the police force. But just to convey how common this is, I want to cite evidence that this is a global phenomenon.
1. Australia: I grew up in Australia, and on a ski holiday with university friends, another brought some of his childhood mates who were cadets in the police force. They were drinking whiskey from the bottle whilst doing 120kmph (speed limit 100kmph) on 2nd grade backroads. i.e. One driver with the approval of two others. There is clearly a culture of disrespect for the law which permeates down to cadet school, and this 'culture of loyalty' trumps facts, truth and justice for a great many police officers.
2. Philippines: A very senior Philippines National Police (PNP) officer is caught not driving with a seat belt. He is able to get off with a warning driving in the Subic Bay area, which is actually an independent police authority. He is nevertheless able to escape accountability. The Subic Bay officer would not be so obstinate if he was a PNP officer. The culture of loyalty grows in the line of duty, but most particularly it is cultivated in training schools, whether its the police academy in Baguio City for officers, or elsewhere. Practically all the Generals in the PNP come from the same school, and more scary the same year, with eash year being politically aligned to a particular president.

Yep, integrity is a rare phenomenon today from members of institutions which one would have expected to be defenders of those concepts of freedom, integrity, honesty and rationality. The problem of course is that there are no consequences and inadequate training in ethics for these 'law enforcers' as cadets.
We might wonder whether the criminals are right to defy them when they are not always exponents of truth, justice and rationality.

In defense of NZ police, I actually find them to be more positive and engaging members in their communities. They are significantly better than the officers in Australia in terms of them reasonableness, and they are far more engaged than police in the Philippines. Mind you, police in the Philippines don't even have vehicles and judges are often corrupt, so I guess they might have good reason to hold the 'system' in disdain.
Andrew Sheldon

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