du Fresne: Police burned off goodwill with their zero tolerance scam

Karl du Fresne thinks the Police have well over stepped the mark with their zero tolerance scam run these past holidays.

In fact he says it failed.

Human nature is a perverse thing. It consistently thwarts all attempts to coerce us into behaving the way bureaucrats, politicians and assorted control freaks think we should.

Take the road toll. Since early December New Zealanders have been subjected to a ceaseless barrage of police propaganda about the futility of trying to defy speed and alcohol limits.

Stern-looking police officers have been in our faces almost daily, warning that zero tolerance would be shown to lawbreakers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found their lecturing increasingly tiresome and patronising.

Of course the police can claim the best possible justification for all this finger-wagging: it’s about saving lives. But what was the result? The road toll for the holiday period was more than double those of the previous two years. For the full year, the toll was up by 44 on the record low of 2013.

The figures suggest that people crash for all manner of reasons, and that the emphasis on speed and alcohol is therefore simplistic. The police focus on speed and booze because these are easy targets, and when the road toll comes down they can take the credit.

In the ideal world envisaged by ever-hopeful bureaucrats, wayward citizens can be managed much as sheep are controlled by heading dogs. But people will never be harangued into driving safely; human nature is just too contrary.

Besides, police crackdowns are only one factor in achieving a lower road toll.

Improved road design, safer cars, better-equipped emergency services and more immediate medical attention all contribute too. It would be interesting to know, for example, how many lives have been saved because of the use of helicopters to get victims promptly to hospital.

Given that their heavy-handed propaganda campaign appears to have had minimal effect, I wonder if the police will now be humble enough to sit down and review their tactics.

I won;t hold my breath waiting.

But it wasn’t just the speed focus it is also the enforcement of the new alcohol limit.

They might also ponder the potential damage done to their public image by the zeal with which they immediately began enforcing the new alcohol limits.

It must have been like shooting fish in a barrel as they set up checkpoints to catch otherwise law-abiding citizens who had inadvertently consumed one glass of sauvignon blanc too many.

It was a formidable display of police power, but how many lives did it save? And how many of the apprehended drivers were left feeling humiliated and angry at being made to feel like criminals for unwittingly doing something that was legal only days before, and that probably posed no danger to anyone?

Police will say, of course, that they were merely enforcing the law. But there is a point at which the benefits of aggressive law enforcement have to be weighed against potential negative consequences, such as public resentment. I’m not sure our police bosses have done this equation.

Sir Robert Peel, the 19th century British politician who established the police force on which ours is modelled, established the principle that police must operate with the consent of the people they serve. Put another way, they can’t risk burning off public goodwill.

Judging by public reaction to the zero tolerance campaign, as expressed in forums such as letters to the editor, talkback shows and online news sites, that’s exactly what is now happening.

Public goodwill has been burned off.

The Police focus on zero tolerance for the speed limit was the worst thinking seen in many a year for the Police. They forced drivers into a panic, many drove well below the speed limit, long tails ensued as people became too afraid to pass and none of it mattered at all as the road toll was more than double the previous year, and more than the last two years combined.

Personally I don’t care about the drink drive limits, I don;t drink so it matters not a bit to me. I actually wonder why we actually don’t have a zero limit for alcohol.

If the Police are consistent with their calls for zero tolerance then why aren’t they lobbying for zero alcohol?

The Police unfortunately were captured by their own spin and a mistaken belief that only their enforcement actions were lowering the road toll, when improved car design, improved roads and better emergency services have probably all contributed much, much more to road safety than heaps of speed cameras, sneaky plain clothes cop cars and sitting at the end of passing lanes revenue gathering.

 

– The Dominion Post


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story.  And when he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet.   Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet, and as a result he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him.  But you can’t ignore him.

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