Friday, 27 August 2010

Safer Communities Together

Years ago, I heard a story.

A young, and new, constable was posted to Rotorua in the 1980s (yeah it's not a happy story). I don't know why he became a police officer, or what he wanted to do, or anything about him or his life. What I do know is his fellow police officerswould collect the names of single mothers - vulnerable women who would be home during the day alone - knock on the door in uniform and demand sex.

The young constable didn't like this, but he couldn't stop it, or maybe he just didn't know how to stop it, or wasn't prepared to do what it would have taken to stop it. But he couldn't be around these men, knowing what they did, and having to be an accomplice. So he left the police force.

Rape and abuse of power wasn't just something Rotorua police officers did in their off time? It was something that required structural support, and structural cover up. It required a widespread mentality that women didn't matter, and other police officers had a right to abuse them.

Dave Archibald was still operating under the 'bros before hoes' mentality when he used his position as police officer to get access to information in the hope it'd help his rapists mates.

Now he is in charge of training new police officers.

I'm reasonably clear that I don't think the police can be reformed, that I think the problems that come from the sort of power that they have are unavoidable, that their job, and the job of the criminal (in)justice system is to maintain the status quo not create safer communities together (see here).

But for those of you who have some faith in the police, who think the culture of rape and abuse is extinguisable, how is that going to happen? Maybe you think our young constable would have made a good constable, that he could have made a difference, but that difference he could have made was the reaosn he couldn't stay in the police force. Those who stayed, are those who could stomach, or turn a blind eye, to what was going on, they're the people who are training new police officers and choosing who gets promoted. How can you believe in reform?

10 comments:

Hugh said...

Excellent question Maia.

I don't really believe in the police either - I pretty much agree with what you say, that although some policemen may not succumb to the temptation that the power they have creates, it's not enough to arrest, let alone turnaround, the abuse.

I will be very interested to see the answers that are given here.

Julie said...

I guess I find it really hard to imagine how we would function without a police force, of some sort. And that gets in the way of thinking about this issue, so I need to turn it around and think about what we actually want our police force to achieve.

Are they the people who mop up after crime, or are they the people who prevent crime? Prevention seems to me to be a multi-faceted area, and probably most of the effective measures are well outside the areas our current police force focus on. Certainly they seem to be more about enforcement and punishment than about prevention. Witness the policy on police car chases, which yet again has killed people recently. That's a policy that isn't about preventing harm it's about enforcing the law. Yet shouldn't enforcing the law primarily be about preventing harm? Maybe I'm still confused from this flu.

The police force seems to attract to its ranks, and retain, people not necessarily best suited to the job. I hesitate to criticise any union publicly, but I think the Police Association does have an important role to play in turning the force around (if that's possible). If you look at other unions, particularly those with a professional focus like nurses, teachers, etc, they have played a part in developing ethical conduct amongst their members. They don't actively resist discussion about the topic, which the Police Association has done many many times. What those unions have done instead is to try as much as possible to give their members the leadership role in determining what the professional ethics should be and then involve them in decision-making about how and when to enforce those rules. (I'm thinking primarily of the Teachers
Council, which is the organisation like that that I have the most experience of dealing with).

Until the Police Association is actively prepared to engage in how to build a better police force, to even admit that we need to build a better police force, reform will be hard.

Julie said...

Just to clarify something in my previous comment - Teachers Council is not a union, is not part of the teachers' unions, and has some clear boundaries to maintain independence. However it does work collaboratively with the unions, including having teacher representatives on its bodies and actively working with teacher groups through their unions when they develop new policy, satisfactory teacher guidelines, and generally looking at issues around professional and personal conduct for teachers. I hope that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum, Clint Rickards, Nathan Connolly and Jon Moss. Three hundred women spoke up four years ago. Do we really believe these are the only sexual predators who have worked for police? Time to stop the rot.

Alison said...

Police training is so short, with a consider focus on the physical and legal aspects of policing (as I understand it). It would be a step in the right direction to see it lengthened substantially, with much of the increased time being devoted to the sociological context in which the police force and judicial system exist. Teachers, midwives, nurses all have to go through extensive study of that sort - trainee police do very little. Information of that sort takes time to sink in and change behaviour too - it's not the work of days or weeks, which is why I feel the current 19 week course just isn't enough.

Anonymous said...

I wish the Government would set up an independent review board so that people who have problems with the police can complain to a higher, independent authority.

I think a lot of policemen are good, but a significant minority are attracted to the job because of the power/dominance that it gives them over others. Police departments are (potentially) very hypermasculine place.

There have been so many stories of women being abused, raped and threatened/intimidated by NZ police officers.

I also remember reading a few years ago about a couple of young teenage boys who busked in Auckland CBD, playing the keyboard (to financially support their sister who was at a Ballet school overseas). A couple of policemen really started intimidating, abusing and bullying these boys. They just could not stand them. The policemen behaved like two high-school bullies who had to squash the nerd boys down (establish their authority over them).

nznative said...

The promotion of Dave Archibald shows that there is still something rotten within the Nz police.

The people who "fast tracked" Clint Rickards up towards the top job in the NZ police before his and the rotorua police stations rape culture became public knowledge still seem to be operating. Nothing appears to have changed except the police are getting better at spin and PR .

The police and the police association seem to just want more. More powers, more police, more money.

They are political and keep strangley quiet about the massavive amount of crime and accidents caused by booze ( something to do with their own subsidized police bars perhaps ? .

They stick up for police who nothing better than predators and thugs. Or police officers like Trevor Franklin who set up and got three young Islander girls sent to jail for a crime they did not commit

But what was their response ( the police associations )when the police did the dirty on area commander Alec Waugh ???? .

The police association also fought against brothels being legalized when they knew police officers were exploiting prostitutes for sex because of their criminal status.

I believe the police association tried to styme and limit the scope of the inquiery into police sexual crimes sparked by Louise Nicolls .

When the police association gets rid of Greg O'connor and when the police force itself cleans out some of the senior "old boys" I'll believe that things might be changing.

But thats not what I'm seeing.

Anonymous said...

@nznative ... Not only did the Police Association try and undermine the Commission of Inquiry into Police Misconduct (Rickards et al), but so did New Zealand Police. They deployed Kristy McDonald to stop Dame Margaret Bazley. The same Kristy McDonald that employed ex-Superintendent Jon Moss (think workplace sexual predator)as her enforcement manager at the Real Estate Agent's Authority. The same Jon Moss who is a part-time friend of the IPCA and an ex-coroner who wants to remain nameless. Ever wondered how many cases of sexual assault actually end in a conviction? Not good, not good at all.

Hugh said...

Here's an idea that those who believe in the reformability of the police might consider.

It's worth noting that in the cases described here (Rickards etc) all of the abusive police have been men and the majority of their victims women.

In Northern Ireland, where the RUC had a history of Protestant policemen abusing Catholics, the force was disestablished and reconstituted with a new name and a positive discrimination policy aimed at attaining a police force that was 50% Catholic.

Although they haven't got there yet it is now 27% Catholic and rising, and seems to treat Catholics more fairly.

Perhaps a reformed New Zealand police service could have a similar goal of having more than 50% of its membership as non cis-male? It might take a while to get there, but even having the goal as an eventual one would probably do a lot to change the culture of the force.

Note: I don't actually believe this would work. I feel that the problem with the police service comes from its role and its powers, not the moral quality of its personel. So in a sense this might be considered concern trolling. But it does seem to me that many of you seem unsure of what sort of mechanism could deliver the higher moral standard of police officer that you're hoping to see one day, so I thought I'd propose this one.

Anonymous said...

Hugh,
Your idea is an excellent one. Here are my few ideas ...

1. START OVER. Personnel and employment contract issues alone make it impossible to fix the macho-culture of our national policing apparatus. Not only has the contract diluted their talent pool, but they now have few operationally effective commanders. They have allowed medical and physical standards to evaporate. Their leadership is not always steeped in the ethical framework, culture and tradition of policing, let alone the communities for whom they serve. Many commanders shuttle from assignment to assignment, taking allowances and focusing on their own career advancement.

2. MAKE IT SMALL, KEEP IT FLAT. Policing should be done by an elite few, who have high ethical standards, kaha and intelligence. Not every policing problem can be solved by throwing more money and more people at. Larger organisations with big budgets do not solve problems, they create them. Large organisations dilute talent and bind it with bureaucracy. Policing needs agility, care, courage, integrity and speed, not endless meetings, spinning the media, planning and reporting.

3. OFFICER CLASS. Time to put in place a system that selects individuals who want to manage, and have demonstrated an ethical ability to do so. Not a one-week charm school. But a five year course. Actually this would be one way to very quickly start to feminise the leadership in New Zealand Police. If they followed such a path, as a country, we would find in a few years that a typical police station is run by someone who knows how to lead and manage, enjoys doing so, and as the chief commander at this station, has at her/his disposal not only a collection of junior officers but also seasoned, experienced operation-guys/girls, who are free to focus on keeping the local community safe.

4. ETHICS AND STANDARDS. The country cannot afford to continue to accept a policing apparatus which regularly fails when confronted with its most important mission : keep vulnerable people, especially women and children safe. Equally we cannot afford to have a national policing organisation that allows officers to abuse their positions. It is time for police to punish officers who do not maintain or fulfil the obligations of their warrant. There should be zero tolerance for every transgression. Policemen should be fired for sexual liaisons with complainants and junior officers. I mean fired. Not some long drawn out investigation. Not some gardening leave arrangement. I mean fired. That is the tragic thing about Nathan Connolly, Jon Moss and Dave Archibald. Those three demonstrate just how far New Zealand Police have yet to travel. If there was a real commitment to professional standards, either one of those individuals would have been dismissed immediately. That action alone would have reverberated nation-wide, and in a heart-beat, predatory sexual behaviour in the workplace, plus trying to cover it up, would have been modified immediately, and trust in policing would have sky-rocketed.

Four ideas to start with ....