On the advice/guidance/direction of the New Zealand Police (depending on who you talk to) two thirds of Auckland Anzac Day services have been shut down because of insufficient resources to meet the current terror threat level. Other areas, such as Queenstown, have cancelled their marches because Police claim it’s easier for them to protect a static service. This rationale falls under the category of “true but irrelevant.” ‘Mansplaining’ (the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing) has been gazumped by ‘Policesplaining.’ The tactical logic is so flawed as to beggar belief. Is there going to be an armed police officer on every extra bus and train that is chock full of people dressed up, wearing their old beret with a chest full of medals on their way to the remaining 20 services in Auckland? Is every motorway going to be swept for IEDs?
This action by Police – and let’s be clear it needs to be laid at the feet of Police – has annoyed me and my business partner, Heather Roy, so much that we have started a campaign to have the situation reversed. Please add your name to the petition and share it widely. We also have a campaign Facebook page. There are resources there to help you conduct your own Anzac ceremony. Use hashtags in your social media posts like #ANZAC #ANZACisUS, #veteranz and #OccupyYourCenotaph. The freedom we enjoy today is because of the sacrifices of others over thousands of years. We must guard it or it will be eroded. At heart, we’re both libertarians. We believe in small government, low taxes and people being able to get on with their lives without state intrusion. This action by Police, supported by a weak Returned Services Association and local councils and silence from most Members of Parliament not only erodes civil liberties hard won by previous generations but insults the memory of those that fought for us. The political cynic in me thinks that the Police are using this as an opportunity to get more resources from Government.
A few people have asked what the Police should have done differently. Good question. Back when we both did politics for a job, we co-wrote a National Security strategy for the ACT Party (no longer involved with the party BTW). It included a section on policing, courts and prisons. Much of it is still relevant today. At its core is the principles espoused by Sir Robert Peel who established the Metropolitan Police in London (ever wondered why they’re called ‘Bobbies?’) Generally referred to as ‘Peelian principles’ (although they may have been written by the first Commissioners) they are:
- To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
- To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
- To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
- To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
- To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
- To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
- To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
- To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
- To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
We reduced these in our strategy to three:
- Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public to be able to secure and maintain their respect and confidence
- Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that reflects that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which every citizen has in the interests of community welfare.
- Police should concentrate on enforcing the law and never appear to usurp the powers of the Courts.
In practice, how would this work? The Policing Act 2008 gives the Commissioner the power to appoint anyone as a Constable. This would have been done on 15 March when military snipers were deployed around the mosques. It was done during the Springbok riots. In theory, every member of the NZ Defence Force could have been warranted as a Constable to defend Anzac Day commemorations. If there really is some threat – although they’re claiming there isn’t – this would have provided the resources.
In future, the Police need to develop a surge capability plan for times like these. In the Defence Force, there are Reserves, part-time service men and women who can be called upon. Every NZDF member who leaves after a year’s service has a four-year Reserve liability and can be recalled by the Governor-General in emergency circumstances. It’s time for the Police to think a bit more laterally about their total Police workforce potential.
By their own actions, the NZ Police have done enormous damage to the public belief in them. It’s not too late for them to stump up and reverse the Anzac Day decision. We are encouraging people to parade locally anyway. Do they intend to arrest rogue marchers?
For what it’s worth, the most powerful act of symbolism and unity that Kiwis of Muslim faith could do right now is offer to provide security at all the small RSAs in the country.