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Opinion

LETTERS: ‘Our failing Police Service’

Thursday 18 August 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Opinion

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LETTERS: ‘Our failing Police Service’

Dear Editor, as the busiest working criminal bar lawyer in the country, I have witnessed the decline in the conduct and efficiency of the Police Service in the past 10 years.

Creeping from this decline is the apparent lack of Police discipline, maladministration, dereliction of duty, rudeness and abuse by front line constables, sergeants and senior sergeants.

I get called to help people in conflict with the law at all hours of the day and night on a regular basis. Whenever I try to get hold of a commissioned officer after hours to report police misconduct, no one wants to answer the phone. They must have a private arrangement not to answer as I pass from one officer to another! Disgusting! When senior officers go home at 4pm, you cannot contact them until the next morning.

You cannot get them straight away, they meet from 8am to 10am Monday to Friday of every week. I speak from experience – my work requires me to call the Police Station or visit the station many times a week.  

My bone chilling experience occurred two evenings ago (15.8.22). My client, a young female school teacher was given a blood test (EBA) after falling off her motorbike while under the influence of alcohol, over a week ago. No one else was injured and no other property damaged. She consented to a blood test. One week later the blood test result came back, my client was over the limit. She expected to receive her summons to attend court. The Police demanded that she attend the Police station to be interviewed. I advised her, her rights that she did not have to go or answer any questions. The Police were enraged and took exception to this despite being advised it was her lawyer that gave the advice. They went to her home and arrested her. I spoke to the arresting officer that the matter was not an arrestable case as it was seven days old. The robotic answer was that my sergeant said I must arrest. I told her a defendant’s summons would be fairer!

No. No logic. No flexibility! All concussion talks. I rang the duty sergeant, at the station. The reaction was worse. “My supervisor (the duty Senior Sergeant) said to bring the girl in and lock her up.” I then appealed to her to arrest her then bail her immediately after. Her reply was that she would have done that, but because I had created all the fuss, she would use her discretion to have my client placed in custody and placed in the Arorangi Prison. Believe it or not, she did. Her angry reaction was to place my client in custody as a punishment for calling her lawyer and her lawyer’s legal advice being treated as interference. My client remained in custody until 2pm the next day. The Police went to the Prison to bail her. She could have been released from the Police station. A needless 24 hours of a citizen’s freedom was sacrificed to appease an angry cop. My client lost one day’s work.

I tried ringing a number of senior officers on Monday evening but none wanted to pick their phone up. I even tried Police PR man Trevor Pitt, I know he would have done his best but got nowhere! 

This is not new, I have had this experience on many occasions. What we need is a Police Disciplinary Authority. I have been calling for this for many years. It should be headed by a retired lawyer. In the meantime, I am calling for the Police Executive to smarten their act, appoint a Duty Inspector to be on duty or on call after hours and answer the d… phone!  

A message to lawmakers … reduce the Police powers of arrest, reduce the detention of arrested persons to 24 hours and not 48 hours which is being used as a pretrial punishment by angry cops!

To our Justices of the Peace, listen to the pleas of defence counsels to use the penalty clauses of the charges to level and balance the playing field. Remember all defendants are our children and family.

Norman George  

Senior Barrister and Solicitor

Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt’s response – I did talk to Norm (Norman George) on the day about this. I passed his concerns on to the Police Leadership but as yet can only confirm the issue had been lodged until consideration has been given to respond, should it be necessary. Police do take these driving offenses seriously and the public should be aware of the risks and consequences involved.