Tag Archive for "police"

The Police Response

In an earlier article I expressed a concern that the NZ Police were getting a bit too keen on playing Cowboys and Terrorists. I wanted some more data so I sent a letter to the NZ Police asking a number of questions around this issue. I now have a response to that letter.

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I’m getting increasingly disturbed by the Police’s keenness to use SWAT-style tactics for executing search and arrest warrants. I note that in the recent case in Christchurch they even used ‘incendiary devices’ as they stormed the place. Therefore:

Police National Headquarters
PO Box 3017

Dear Sir/Madam,

Under the Official Information Act I request the following information:

1. Which people, positions or ranks within the NZ Police are authorised to deploy squads of armed police (such as the Armed Offenders Squad, anti-terrorist squads or similar). To clarify my request, I am referring to all squads or teams using SWAT-style tactics and equipment.
2. The number of times these squads have been called out in each of the past 10 years (1996-2006) and in the current year to date (2007).
3. The percentage of those call outs that were in response to an incident (e.g. a shooting) as compared to a planned deployment (e.g. to execute an arrest warrant). Any other statistical breakdown of reasons for deployment recorded by the Police.
4. The policy used to determine whether to use these squads to execute arrest warrants.
5. The policy used to determine whether to use these squads to execute search warrants.
6. The policy used to determine whether these squads will make an unannounced forced entry when executing search or arrest warrants.
7. The circumstances in which these squads are authorised to use incendiary devices such as flash-bang grenades when making an unannounced forced entry.
8. The number of times incendiary devices such as flash-bang grenades have been used in each of the past 10 years (1996-2006) and in the current year to date (2007).
9. The number of injuries caused by the use of incendiary devices such as flash-bang grenades in each of the past 10 years (1996-2006) and in the current year to date (2007).
10. Details of any oversight procedures performed either by the Police or any other body (such as the Police Complaints Authority) to review the use and activities of these squads.


Thomas Beagle

The Terrorism Files

So, Fairfax Media have released the “Terrorism Files” – a summary of the facts from the evidence the police submitted to get the search warrants that led to those over the top Ninja-Police raids a few weeks ago.

I’ve read through this cherry picked summary and so far my response consists of “Is that it?” The two main thrusts appear to be:

  • a lot of talk about what they want to do but no actual evidence of plans to do any of it
  • a bunch of people doing paramilitary training in the Ureweras

There are two main questions that come to my mind:

1. Should what they were doing be illegal?
2. What is an appropriate response to people engaging in such behaviour?

Planning Crime

On the first count I’m going to give a qualified no. In general, the Police are claiming that these people were preparing to commit terrorist acts and the quotes definitely indicate that they were discussing them and even training for them. However, there seems to be no evidence that they had gone to the stage of planning these acts, let alone doing them.

I’m wary of “crimes of intention”, where we arrest people because we think they’re going to do something but they haven’t actually done it yet. There’s a huge gap between talking about doing something and actually doing it (otherwise we’d all probably be healthy, fit, successful and rich!) On the other hand, I don’t think that it’s necessary to wait for the bomb to go off before we arrest the people planning to plant it. Where should we draw the line?

I suggest that a good line would be where people cross from planning in the abstract to planning in the concrete. Or, to put it in an example, I don’t think it’s actionable to say “We should kill John Key with a sniper rifle” but I think it is actionable to say “I’ve booked a room with a good view of the target. X will deliver the rifle to you the day before, we expect the official party to be at the target spot from about 10:05 for approximately 15 minutes.” On the evidence published by Fairfax there’s no sign that they were anywhere close to that.

What About Paramilitary Training?

As well as this talk, it appears they also engaged in paramilitary training in the Ureweras. This involved camping, exercises and weapons training. These are all perfectly legal activities and engaged in by tramping clubs, gun clubs and paintball gamers across the country. I’m not sure I see a difference just because they were wearing balaclavas while doing it.

As for the firearms charges, sure, go ahead, but if your only crime is not having the proper license to own a gun that you could otherwise legally own, it’s really pretty trivial.

Appropriate Response

However, just because something isn’t or shouldn’t be illegal doesn’t mean that you should just ignore it. In general I’m against the idea of the state spying on people without reason, but in this case I believe that the evidence we have seen so far does provide sufficient justification. The police were right to be keeping them under surveillance.

Overall, I think it was a mistake to arrest them now. It was wrong as a breach of the civil rights grounds of the accused, and it was wrong on pragmatic grounds because it has brought the police and the state into disrepute.

I think that the appropriate response was to keep monitoring them to see if their plans did start getting more concrete. If they did, only then would charging them with criminal or terrorist conspiracy offenses seem appropriate.

New Zealand Anti-Terror Raids

Three comments about the police ‘anti-terrorist’ raids.

1. The political reaction is highly revealing. We have been told that Helen Clark and John Key have both been briefed on the raids and I assume that they therefore have more information than the general populace.

If there really was a serious threat that the police had averted through their investigations, don’t you think that we’d see these politicans lining themselves up behind the police, ready to bask in the glow of public approbation? Wouldn’t a nice juicy anti-government terrorist conspiracy be a great opportunity for both leaders to parade their law and order credentials and their love of peaceful democracy, all the while making sure they mention the words ‘Maori’ and ‘terrorism’ enough times to scare the white middle-class?

Instead the politicians have been distancing themselves from the police as fast as they can while mouthing general platitudes about “supporting the police and the rule of law”. I note even John Key did some anti-police posturing while speaking to the extensions to the terrorism bill.

These are not the actions of people who are expecting this to end with convictions and commendations, they are the actions of people who know that the police have made a colossal conspiracist balls-up and they’re trying to work out how they can get out of the splatter zone before the shit hits the fan.

2. I’m suspicious of the police’s use of the black-clad ninja squads. While their use would seem appropriate when you know you’re going to be doing an assault against an armed and belligerent defender (i.e. your average armed offenders callout or hostage situation), using them to execute arrest warrants seems like intimidation. Did they really have any reason to believe that just turning up and knocking on the door wouldn’t have worked?

3. This may sound odd, but the general scepticism shown towards the police raids have made me somewhat proud to be a New Zealander. While I expect that a real terrorist act in New Zealand would lead to the same sort of craven and cowardly behaviour that the US populace is still engaged in, at least it gives me some hope that we wouldn’t give up all of our suspicion of government power and the civil liberties that go with that view.