Category Archives: police

Cost-cutting that costs us all

Step 1: Cut funding for mental health services, or continue to underfund them.
Step 2: Spend more – much more – on

  • Police
  • coroners
  • courts
  • prosecutors
  • legal aid
  • prisons
  • victims of crime
  • insurance

Genius.

Oh, and turn police into suicide prevention counsellors and executioners. Because that’s what they signed up for.

PS: And of course that’s not even counting the cost to those with mental health issues and their families when they are left without necessary care and treatment. Or to members of the community when those with anti-social forms of mental illness are untreated and put in situations where crime or violence are more likely to arise.

What else should police officers be doing?

More insanity from the “War” on “Drugs”, as authorities in the US try to destroy the lives of high school kids:

Last year in three high schools in Florida, several undercover police officers posed as students. The undercover cops went to classes, became Facebook friends and flirted with the other students. One 18-year-old honor student named Justin fell in love with an attractive 25-year-old undercover cop after spending weeks sharing stories about their lives, texting and flirting with each other.

One day she asked Justin if he smoked pot. Even though he didn’t smoke marijuana, the love-struck teen promised to help find some for her. Every couple of days she would text him asking if he had the marijuana. Finally, Justin was able to get it to her. She tried to give him $25 for the marijuana and he said he didn’t want the money — he got it for her as a present.

A short while later, the police did a big sweep and arrest 31 students — including Justin. Almost all were charged with selling a small amount of marijuana to the undercover cops. Now Justin has a felony hanging over his head.

In the cops’ defence, there isn’t any actual crime in Florida that they could be solving.

Pepper Spray – the new tool for extrajudicially punishing people police don’t like

It was supposed to be a non-lethal alternative to police having to seriously injury someone. Instead, capsicum spray is regularly used instead of

When pepper spray became a mainstream law enforcement tool in the 1990s, it was hailed as a relatively peaceful alternative to harsh physical violence.

But as demonstrated by the routine spraying of Occupy Wall Street activists, culminating in the horrific assault at the University of California, Davis, pepper spray can too easily become a tool of first and excessive resort…

Far from being what one Fox News pundit called a “food product,” pepper is a dangerous and sometimes deadly weapon

Like pepper sprays, Tasers were supposed to be tools of intermediate physical force, an alternative to hitting a resisting suspect with batons or grappling them to the ground. But Tasers also became alternatives to less-violent tactics and were used in situations where suspects had not physically resisted arrest.

Rather than talking, police too often go straight to the electricity — and the same may also happen with pepper spray.

The reason is obvious, according to Ana Yáñez-Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition:

“When you have something that is readily available to you, something that’s on your belt like pepper spray, and you have a confrontation in front of you — the first thing you’re going to do, because you’re human, is use whatever is right there… All of the training that you might use, anything that allows you to use your other skills, goes out the door. The first thing you do is say, ‘I’m going to pepper-spray that kid.’ That’s a natural response.”

The studies discussed in the article are worth a look.

I wonder whether it’s just that O/C spray and tasers give police a greater sense of authority, a greater sense of power, and that makes them more assertive and aggressive, escalating confrontations. There’s also the fact that both O/C spray and tasers are extremely painful.

Not that any present members of our police forces would ever use such an opportunity to dole out some extrajudicial punishment to someone who, say, questioned their authority. But if some ordinary people who might succumb to that temptation were to join the force, are we certain they wouldn’t?

I think we should be very, very careful before adopting any of these new punitive weapons. Very careful.

And here’s where our freedoms are really being eroded

Mike Stuchbery reports on the crushing of protest in Melbourne:

As I write this, the remaining participants in Occupy Melbourne are involved in a dispute with police over their signs and belongings. They’ve been told they can stay, but that everything needs to go – signs, belongings, anything that could feasibly sustain or indicate a protest action.

Apparently the signs around the encampment – all uniformly anti-corporate – are considered a kind of advertising, and therefore ‘illegal’.

How laughable.

This latest development comes after a violent eviction from City Square, a huge police presence moving them on from Bowen Street at RMIT and another eviction from the State Library of Victoria.

It is obvious that the City of Melbourne, presided over by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, has declared war on Occupy Melbourne and is using every bylaw, every relevant piece of legislation to whittle away at the group until exhaustion, intimidation and hopelessness crumble the group.

How deeply, deeply undemocratic.

What should bother us more? Potential limits on the powers of the powerful to destroy the powerless? Or squashing the voice of ordinary people just because they’re daring to raise up a voice against the establishment?

The national media are up in arms about the former and couldn’t care less about the latter.

I don’t know if that worries you. It truly disturbs me.

The UK conservatives’ response to the riots: Let’s make matters worse!

What kind of dribbling moron could seriously think this insanity from the British PM a good idea?

Mr Cameron backs plans to ensure council tenants found guilty of taking part in the mayhem will be evicted. Some councils, including Greenwich and Hammersmith and Fulham in London and Salford in Greater Manchester, announced that they were already pushing ahead with the measure.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps was tightening the law to make sure that even if a rioter was convicted of a crime outside their borough they could lose their council home – something that is not possible at the moment…

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is considering amending a Welfare Reform Bill going through Parliament to ensure that rioters have their benefits cut.

So – these disaffected, angry young people: we’ll throw them out onto the street with no money. That can’t possibly lead to more crime! And we’ll make sure that when we punish these opportunistic looters – from all strata of English society – that we punish the poorest hardest. The kids of the rich? They won’t lose their homes or their ability to eat. But the kids of the poor? LET ‘EM STARVE. IN THE GUTTERS.

And this army of homeless starving people they’re planning to create? Yeah, I’m sure they’ll settle down and get a job that won’t be offered to them because of their criminal record and they won’t ever bother anyone again.

Brilliant.

Hope UK taxpayers are looking forward to paying vastly more for the thousands of new prison places they’re going to have to provide, and to the streets becoming more and more dangerous.

ELSEWHERE: Some sense on the English Riots from Penny Red.

Things they don’t want to hear or see

I wasn’t going to comment on Robert Clark’s silly (and fucking outrageous) plan to get police to issue on the spot fines for swearing in public, until I read Dee Madigan’s remarks on The Drum and realised just how this is going to affect vulnerable people:

In fact, what is considered to be ‘normal community standards’ is highly subjective at the best of times. It should not be a decision made in the heat of the moment by a policemen who, let’s face it, would be unlikely to be objective about someone they are right in the middle of having a problem with.

And it means that any person in any sort of dispute with police has a way to be charged immediately. And this is where the new laws are most insidious.

Empirical evidence in New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory shows that laws which focus on offending behaviors have a disproportionate impact on juveniles and minority groups. For example, in Western Australia, Aboriginals are 15 times more likely to be charged for swearing. And in New South Wales, offensive conduct crimes also have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities, and more often than not are used to deal with young people who are deemed to be showing disrespect to authority.

So, while swearing doesn’t actually hurt someone (and no, being offended isn’t the same as actually being hurt), laws that punish people for swearing can become a form of social exclusion which can be incredibly damaging to the most vulnerable groups in our society.

That’s very true. I’ve written before about how laws targeting things like begging result in homeless people being locked up because they have neither money nor identification; this is just one more quiver in the bow of the nastiest members of the police force. The vulnerable who use coarse language because it’s all they’ve ever known, will find themselves lumped with fines they can’t possibly pay. The mentally-ill, the drug-affected, those focused on bare survival – in practice, this will be a tool to make life even more difficult for those only just hanging on.

And for what? To protect our precious, dainty ears from hearing centuries-old English words? For fuck sake.

ELSEWHERE: On the subject of morons imposing their ‘being offended” on the rest of us:

A billboard company has defended its decision to bow to pressure to remove advertisements promoting safe sex among gay couples.

HIV campaigners are outraged the safe sex promotion featuring a fully clothed, hugging gay couple has been pulled from Queensland bus shelters by Adshel.

The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities launched its “Rip and Roll” advertisements a week ago and yesterday learned they were being scrapped after about 30 complaints.

You can guess by whom:

Australian Christian Lobby: People power wins in removing offending ads

If you’ve got the stomach, you can read the actual complaints here.

Got that, people we have an irrational prejudice against?

UPDATE (4.45pm): After protests, Adshel has now reversed its decision, with one of the silliest excuses ever:

Adshel CEO Steve McCarthy said the company had been the “target” of a an organised campaign by the ACL. He said in a statement: “It has now become clear that Adshel has been the target of a coordinated ACL campaign. This has led us to review our decision to remove the campaign and we will therefore reinstate the campaign with immediate effect.”

Wait, so if the ACL hadn’t admitted its link that would’ve been okay? It’s not that the objections were fatuous and discriminatory – it’s that they were organised?

Feeling safer

Travelling alone at night on Melbourne’s public transport, I’ve often felt a nagging suspicion that I wasn’t entirely safe. Teenagers sat at the other end of carriages, talking loudly amongst themselves (undoubtedly about the violent crimes they were about to commit) and laughing (undoubtedly at the innocent other travellers who were soon to be their victims). Young men would stand near the doors as the trains rocketed between stations, lurching wildly (clearly drunk out of their brains) whenever the train swung around a bend. Other passengers would sit suspiciously by themselves the whole way (clearly planning to follow me home and rape and murder me).

I used to think – my god, I wish there were some barely-trained failed security guards toting semi-automatic weapons on this train to keep me safe. Only the threat of bullets spraying around the carriage in a shoot-out between trigger-happy gang members and heavily-armed not-police could reassure me now.

Well, never let it be said Ted Baillieu is a useless do-nothing premier whose only plans for Victoria are actually worse than what came before. He’s finally giving me, and all other paranoid and confused rail passengers, exactly what we presumed when not thinking rationally that we wanted. He’s found a way to put more guns on our trains, without all the inconvenient professionalism of actual police.

That’s the kind of can-do (stupid things) spirit that Victoria has been looking for. I hope the Herald Sun wrote an approving editorial about it.