“I find myself in the unfamiliar situation of being in agreement with Winston Peters”

It’s going around.  Not sure what’s going on, but people are starting to see things Winston’s way.

The New Zealand First leader thinks the police have lost the plot, and so do I.

Peters has attacked the police for wanting to curtail the right of people to take their own wine and beer to race meetings. He uses his customary blustering rhetoric, describing the police as politically correct wowsers and comparing them with Nazis.

But he’s right when he says government policy should recognise that the vast majority of New Zealanders treat alcohol responsibly – a fact wilfully ignored by zealots in the police hierarchy, the public health sector and the universities, who think we’re all helpless drunks.

Peters is also undoubtedly correct when he predicts that a prohibition on people taking their own alcohol to race meetings would soon become a blanket ban on alcohol at other community events, and possibly even family picnics.

The latest police proposal surfaced in a briefing paper on ways to reduce “alcohol-related harm” – three words that I suspect the staff at Police Headquarters in Wellington are required to chant for five minutes at the start of every working day to remind them of their primary mission.

The briefing paper identified BYO alcohol at race meetings as a “key issue”. This caused immediate alarm on the West Coast, where the Kumara race meeting, at which people have traditionally been allowed to drink their own alcohol, is a signature event on the social calendar.

West Coast mayor Bruce Smith says that if the police get their way, they will kill off an event that has been attracting West Coast families for 134 years. And you can be sure the Kumara races won’t be the only meeting affected.

The police are getting involved in public policy making.  Their job is to implement the law.  We saw that they wanted to see Hate Speach laws over a week ago.  

He will have noted that the single-minded, anti-liquor mindset adopted by the police hierarchy is putting officers offside with the community they are paid to serve.

I picked up a sudden, unmistakeable change of mood a couple of summers ago, when – without prompting from me – friends began expressing their irritation about being breath-tested on their way to work, or complaining about the bullying demeanour of police officers at outdoor events where people were harmlessly (and legally) enjoying a drink.

I have also noted a growing public feeling that police priorities are cockeyed and their resources misused. Ninety per cent of burglaries go unsolved and victims of crime frequently complain that calls to the police go unheeded.

A business owner told me last week that even when he provided the police with video footage of organised shoplifters at work, and evidence of their identity, no action was taken. Yet the police always seem to have enough officers for alcohol checkpoints, even in places and at times of day when the likelihood of catching drunk drivers must be minimal.

If I’m hearing this, the politicians must be hearing it too. Likewise, police officers in the community must be aware of mounting dissatisfaction.

The police need to refocus.  There is altogether too much effort going into chasing ever diminishing returns.

This blog and my readers are passionately pro-Police.  But I have to agree with Karl here that they are forgetting what their role is.

 

Karl du Fresne

 


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