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Marc My Words

Marc My Words.

By Marc Alexander MP. United Future NZ.

Law and dis-order

The sense of safety and security that New Zealanders have come to expect has come under much pressure of late. While the country has been battered and bruised with wind and rain, so too has confidence in the police. Allegations of pack rape, corruption and cover-ups by Police have struck a blow to the thin blue line - swamping the highly regarded Assistant Commissioner Clint Rickards and two former policemen, Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton - with an added finger pointing at Detective Inspector John Dewar for allegedly blocking the original complaint.

The Prime Minister has quite rightly ordered an independent Commission to be headed by a High Court Judge with the same powers as a Court. There are however, a number of concerns; these issues have again raised a crisis of confidence not only of the public but the Police members themselves; it has raised issues of the impartiality of Police investigating one of its own, especially in cases involving allegations of sexual assault; and most importantly, how will the fallout from the allegations and the inquiry process hamper ongoing Police operations?

Perhaps most disturbing - and a question about this has yet to be raised - is the role of Police Minister George Hawkins. How is it that nothing impeded Rickards' promotion to Assistant Commissioner while there was the hint of an unresolved allegation? Was it that Hawkins was not told (in which case the confidence he places in his advisers is misplaced - and they should be dealt with); was it that Hawkins was advised but did nothing (in which case his competence comes into question); or was Hawkins given advice but chose to disregard it (in which case we should be given the reasons).

The other possibility of course, is that the Police withheld information from the Minister and his advisers - in which case the Police/Minister relationship demands investigation. Just what was the accountability process between Police and Minister, why was it that the Prime Minister blocked Rickards' promotion to Deputy Commissioner three years ago? It begs the larger question; what did she know then that Hawkins didn't, and why wasn't the inquiry started back then rather than when the complainant Louise Nicholas came forward years later?

All this comes about at a time when barely eight weeks into the New Year, New Zealand has seen 16 murders. The Police are under-funded, under-manned and now their confidence is under-mined. But before we leap to conclusions, we should be mindful of a likely torrent of stories fuelled by the media. While some will no doubt be worthy of investigation others will be vengeful gossip given traction by reporters looking for their big story.

It is tempting to leap to judgement but for the sake of the men in blue who serve to protect us, often putting life and limb at risk, we need to be patient, allow the inquiry to run its course, and above all, we need to be fair.

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