Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 5. Monday, April 29, 1963
To Police Or Persecute?
To Police Or Persecute?
Prominent policemen have been requesting lately the help of the public. In Auckland Inspector P. A. Byrne said the public seemed to resent the Police for doing their job.
"The people expect us to control disorders within society but we are utterly helpless without their assistance," said Byrne. "This is the enemy the Police have to contend with."
Inspector Byrne is right in pointing out the public do not like the Police—it is obvious. What he does not see, or perhaps has not the will to see, is that the Police themselves may be responsible for their poor public image.
Policemen are not famous for their intelligence. They are well versed in chapter and verse of the particular laws it is their function to administer. But in many instances they have an imperfect appreciation of the principles which stand behind those laws. They prefer to adopt an attitude of stubborn surliness.
But if a policeman's conception of what constitute democratic rights is hazy, his ideas on ambition are not. There is no surer method for a young constable to bring himself to the attention of his superiors than by securing convictions.
It is true that if a person is convicted he must have been in breach of the law. But there are some questionable methods which can be used, and which are used.
The Police often forget, conveniently, to inform a person that he is not obliged to make a statement. They often say, in fact, that it will be "easier" to make a statement. Almost invariably that statement is used against an accused as evidence against him. It was easier right enough,—easier for the Police to secure a conviction
In a recent case two constables who unlawfully detained and assaulted a man in Auckland were successfully sued. Damages of £628 were awarded against them.
Lamentably, few of the citizens maltreated by the Police have either the wit or the resources to pursue their rights to this length.
Yet the right to democratic freedoms should not be impinged upon merely because the Police consider they are dealing with a person who belongs to a disreputable sector of society and who is not aware of his rights.
The policing of New Zealand is an expensive business. It is virtually impossible to earn less than £1000 a year as a trained constable.
The job has its difficulties. There is the daily increasing chance of being shot. There are the rigours of chasing the multitudes of escaping prisoners. And what about the crop of seemingly unsolvable murders and the elusive stone throwers. No, perhaps a policeman's lot is not a happy one.
The New Zealand Police Force has to remember that the robust but firm friendliness of the country constable is a quality which must not be lost in an increasingly urban community.—G. W. R. P.