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click here to visit the New Zealand Police website I don't really enjoy giving cops a hard time because I think that by and large they do a good job under difficult circumstances. I admire the New Zealand Police Force. I think that, as a nation, we can be proud of them. If you're not convinced, then watch the American "COPS" program and see how they operate. Then be thankful for what we get.1

Now that I've covered my arse with that shameless butt-lick (although I did mean it), it's time to get stuck into the cops. As good as they are on the whole, they've got some serious issues to sort out. It's understandable that they're not keen to admit to their shortcomings — what large organization is? Still, given the importance of their role in our society, they must be prepared to take constructive public criticism.

The Attitude

What sort of people want to become police officers? All sorts, I suppose. You'd like to think that the majority of them are motivated by a concern for the community and a desire to serve. I certainly hope so but I have my doubts.

One thing's for sure — not all cops are dedicated to pure law enforcement and justice. I have personally witnessed numerous incidents of human rights violations by police. I think you'd have to be stupid to think that this could never happen in New Zealand.

I knew an ex-cop who used to tell us about busting hippies and alternative lifestylers for fun. These were people who (according to his description) had decided to live in peace, closer to nature. The boys in blue would march into their homes and bust them on anything they could dig up, just for the hell of it, then finish work and laugh about it over a beer. Strange thing is, I worked with this guy for quite a while and got on well with him.

Keeping the Beat

I want to mention the way front-line cops deal with situations such as domestic violence, psychiatric illness, etc. In my experience they don't handle these problems at all well.

I don't really blame them for their poor performance in these areas - it seems that they just aren't adequately trained. More on this topic later (when I get time to write it).

1. Update, March 2000: I've had a couple of Americans e-mail me with some interesting comments. They were both uncomfortable about their police system, without being too severely critical.