Lawless Police

One shakes one’s head in wonderment that multiple guns could be stolen from a city police station in broad daylight (and chuckles at the suggestion I saw that perhaps Police could be prosecuted for failing to store firearms safely).  It isn’t, I guess, the direct responsibility of the government, but somehow it seems symptomatic of just how badly off course the government’s so-called “year of delivery”, transformational change etc, is.   The public sector can’t even get the basics right, even as the bosses parade around (in the Police case), advancing trendy political and social causes, asserting the right to carry firearms in all circumstances, and (wildly inappropriately for a supposedly neutral public servant) offering public adoration and praise of the Prime Minister.  How anyone can still have confidence in the New Zealand Police is a bit beyond me.

This is the same organisation which appears to simply choose to ignore the law when it suits.   Let me illustrate.

In mid-March, a reader drew my attention to an article in a Police magazine, gushing over the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner (formerly the police person in our embassy in Beijing) as a visiting lecturer

at the People’s Public Security University of China – the first foreigner to hold such a role.

The university is where China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) trains the elite of China’s police. …..

I wrote a post expressing astonishment that Police could think this was in any way appropriate, given the (official) PRC disregard for the rule of law, and the active part played by Ministry of Public Security in (for example) the large-scale repression and persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang (or any of the other systematic repressions the PRC prides itself on).  Political loyalty to the CCP will be a key consideration in recruitment, and in helping the Ministry, New Zealand Police buttress the agencies of a regime responsible for so much evil.  Mr McCardle though seemed quite chuffed at his appointment.

He says the university appointment is an endorsement of the healthy state of the New Zealand-China bilateral relationship, and “underscores the idea that New Zealand has values and ideas worth considering in the Chinese context”.

It also aligns with the aims and values of the New Zealand-China Friendship Society and the pioneering work of New Zealander Rewi Alley who fostered a life-long friendship with China from the 1930s.

As I noted

And what about that weird stuff in the final paragraph of the quoted excerpt?  The New Zealand-China Friendship Society has been around for decades and long-served as a Beijing front organisation in New Zealand, right through the horrors of the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and on to their total silence today about repression in Xinjiang.    And Rewi Alley?   Well, he lived a fairly comfortable life in Beijing after the CCP took over, navigating this way through the thickets of changing CCP politics, reaching new lows when he published a jointly-authored book near the end of the Cultural Revolution defending the regime at its worst.  What possesses our Police to think these are “aims and values” to champion?   Why not, for example, the aims and values of the Tiananmen protestors, the Falun Gong movement, or the (underground) Catholic church?  But that wouldn’t fit the narrative I guess, of prostrating the New Zealand system before Beijing.

I wondered what thought, or analysis, went into the decision to accept this appointment, including whether relevant ministers had been aware in advance (and thus complicit).

And so I lodged a couple of Official Information Act requests, one with Police, and one with MFAT.    The request to Police asked

Please provide me with copies of all information relating to the appointment of Hamish McCardle as a Visiting Professor in the People’s Republic of China (as described in [the article])  Without limitation, this request includes any consultation with or advice to other government agencies, or government ministers (or their offices).

I had a response from MFAT fairly promptly, within 10 days or so of lodging the request.  MFAT noted that they were aware of my separate request to Police and responded that

MFAT 1That was useful information in its own right: presumably there had been no internal discussion at MFAT, and no briefing to, or consultation with, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

And what of Police?  I had an automated acknowledgement of my request, and the MFAT response confirms Police were aware of the request.   Under the Official Information Act, agencies are required to respond as soon as reasonably practicable, but within no more than 20 working days.     That deadline has now long since passed and I have heard nothing at all from Police.

Given the other stuff going on after 15 March, I wouldn’t really have been surprised if Police had got in touch to explain that they needed an extension of time.  In the circumstances, I wouldn’t have been particularly bothered.   Agencies do it all the time, in much less compelling circumstances.  But I’ve heard nothing at all from the Police.  Earlier this week I even got in touch and pointed out that I had heard nothing, in case a reply had simply fallen through the cracks. I noted that if I had heard nothing by the end of the week I would be lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman.    As I now will be.

You might have hoped that Police would more scrupulous than any agency in ensuring that they, and their staff, complied with the law, letter and spirit.    But perhaps they’ve been imbibing some of the lawless values of the People’s Republic of China, whose repressive apparatus their Assistant Commissioner is now helping out, and with which they associate the once-honourable name of the New Zealand Police.  Opportunism not honour, just doing whatever they choose and think they can get away with, now seems to be the order of the day in the Bush-led New Zealand Police.

Police should start complying with the law, and releasing the relevant material under the Official Information Act.  Beyond that, they should rethink this appointment, and ministers should insist that McCardle withdraw from the appointment.  But, of course, there is no hope of the latter, as our government (and Opposition) fall over themselves to show who can do more to defer to the interests and preferences of the PRC.  And that, of course, is why the foreign interference inquiry Parliament’s Justice Committee is undertaking (submissions closed last night) has very little credibility: like foxes taking responsibility for investigating security on the hen house.

UPDATE: The PRC approach to policing and the rule of law –  the disappearance into custody, without charge or trial, of the (PRC) head of Interpol (as reported in a substantial article today in the Wall St Journal).  The sort of thing our Commissioner and Minister of Police are happy to associate with?


9 thoughts on “Lawless Police

  1. A few minutes ago I finished ‘The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die’ by Niall Ferguson. The book is a discussion of how the successes & failures of institutions make the difference between prosperity and poverty.

    This is my experience with an NZ institution:
    “” Thank you for your online complaint form, which was received by the Human Rights Commission on 31 March 2019. We will now consider your complaint and aim to contact you within 15 working days.””
    and yesterday
    “Kia ora Bob,
    Further to your follow-up emails, you are correct we have not been able to reply within the 15 working days as advised in our acknowledgment. We hope to do so within 10 working days.
    I apologise for the further delay. “”

    This is only time I have contacted them and given that my complaint was about the minor issue of use of words in a newspaper headline (obviously I was sufficiently bothered to raise the complaint but I doubt anyone else did) and my only request was for HRC to write to the editor since it would carry more weight than any letter I wrote. I was not asking for any apology merely for the editor to think more carefully before writing headlines in future. So HRC had no research to do, no public action whatsoever, no political ramifications, etc – all they have to do is either tell me I’m wasting their time preferably with an explanation why or to email the editor of a national newspaper pointing out the dangers that at least one citizen sees in an ill-considered headline. Either way about 10 minutes work. But viewed from the point of view of a bureaucracy keeping requests unresolved makes them look busier and justifying of more staff and higher wages. If at the end of the week they had resolved all incidents their political masters would be wondering why they existed (which explains the decline in IRD phone support service). Auckland Transport’s public relations department works on the same basis with excessive staff and poor performance.

    Auckland council building consent department and INZ both have earned reputations for Kafkaesque bureaucracy. But I am obliged to say the NZ passport office is a shining example of a govt department doing its best to provide quality service to New Zealanders.


    • In reply to Bob:

      and INZ both have earned reputations for Kafkaesque bureaucracy.

      I’d very positive experience with the NZ Immigration Service. About 5 years ago my partner applied for the residency visa in NZ. The people in the departmental office in Dunedin provided very prompt, efficient and courteous service – can’t praise them highly enough. Unfortunately, most of provincial offices appear to have been closed.


      • Very pleased to hear it. It is not unique – the dozen or so holiday visas for family and friends from PNG that I have knowledge of maybe half were processed efficiently.
        INZ stopped by son-in-law arriving on a holiday visa to be with my daughter giving birth to her first child. They stopped it purely by delay. I will never forgive them. Our bureaucracies are human, we have to accept some mistakes will occur (having been responsible for supporting computer systems for most of my life I am well aware nobody is perfect, we are all human and even the best make mistakes, etc) but I cannot accept inhumane outrageous unwarranted delay.
        I consider that case simple and therefore not Kafkaesque but I have many other examples that certainly are ‘reminiscent of the oppressive or nightmarish qualities of Franz Kafka’s fictional world’.


  2. if you email the Auckland Council for say someone email address – they make you wait ten working days for a reply. Wellington CC however reply as soon as they can – sometimes an email comes thru in the middle of the night where night staff must do the catch up work from the day. The regular call centre operates 24 hours too.

    Nothing to thank the current mayor for – I think it came from Kerry Prendegasts time,


  3. My friend stayed at the Mt Cook hermitage a few nights back, there were 8 Chinese bus drivers and one New Zealander. Apparently in the free trade agreement Clark agreed to let up to 100 tour guides in and I’m told they always get residency and are soon in a bus. I presume when they get residency they are replaced (not to mention the wife and parents)?

    I was sitting in Jade Palace Tekapo, once with a good guy (local Chinese). He saw a bus arrive and commented (pithily) “there’s too many Chinese driving buses”.

    In an article today about immigration sentiment in Canada that non-whites are more concerned about non-white immigration than whites. Perhaps they don’t have much faith in the Utopian dream?

    Meanwhile Queenstown ponders how to get top dollar tourists – cough!?


  4. I think you raise a very good point about the Police being armed. It alarmed me to come back to New Zealand post-Christchurch and see police walking the streets of Auckland openly brandishing pistols (the two or three I saw wandering around Courthouse lane were very smug about it too). Apparently, they were carrying assault rifles around the streets in the days post-attack.

    I can see the point that the police need to be capable of defending themselves and of responding to threats, but I think carrying weapons openly in public is a really, really bad idea. I don’t believe it makes them, or us, safer (I also think having weapons in police cars is a really bad idea).


    • I agree. If you have a look at the comments of the Police Association after the Christchurch terror attack, it’s very clear they want to fast track routine carry of firearms by Police. I believe even post- Chch this is unjustified. Police have a AOS division that can handle most incidents by armed offenders. The statistics show our gun crime rates are very low, even below Australia which has had tougher gun laws for 20 years. In fact many of the guns deaths are actually suicides.
      Now with the decision to remove the MSSA type from legal circulation it should reduce the need for routine armed Police officers. As the debacle in Palmerston North showed, the Police themselves can be a source of weapons for the criminal fraternity.


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