Monday, January 26, 2009

Why Officer 'A' should NOT face trial

Unpredictably, Idiot/Savant is calling on the police to charge the officer responsible for the terrible shooting of Halatau Naitoko. Usually one for the rule of law and due process, I/S jumps in hooves and all, as he tends to do, with his rhetoric ruling his brain. Incredibly, he has an ally, former Red Squad leader and NZ First MP, Ross Meurant. Meurant has a reputation of talking stupidly first and then making it worse later.

Mr Meurant said police could only shoot to kill when they feared death or grievous injury to themselves or someone else and when there was no other way to prevent it.

He questions the decision-making process that led to Mr Naitoko's death.

I didn't know Meurant knew the decision-making priocess that went on on the Motorway on Friday afternoon. He must have been there. Meurant should watch tonight's interview on Close Up with the truck driver and then apologise.

I digress.

I/S starts off in his first post saying that "It looks like a tragic accident. But regardless, the officer should be prosecuted and made to face the judgement of their peers."

Then in his second post responding to feedback he says that:
No, what I am arguing is for the police to have exactly the same rights as any other New Zealander, and for them to apply the same bloody standard to themselves as they apply to everybody else.

If an ordinary citizen shot someone in these circumstances, they would unquestionably be facing court. We expect a high degree of care from the people we trust with guns, to the extent that accidentally shooting someone is regarded as careless pretty much by definition. That standard is high, but it is not inherently malicious, and it does not become so simply because the shooter is wearing a uniform.

I/S is fair and square wrong. He conflates rights with responsibilities or duties. The police do have the right to shoot people in this country just as much as they have the right to handcuff suspects, use force, drive at excessive speed etc. You get the point. But their rights to do all these things have to be balanced with the situation they are facing at the time. You break the law if you drive at excesive speed to a report of a historic house burglary. And, there is (usually) no need to handcuff a 16 yr old female shoplifter. Each situation depends on the circumstances. As does this shooting.

The police do have the right to shoot to incapacitate in certain circumstances. Under their internal firearm regulations (internally regulated) if the elements of F61 are met* then they can shoot to incapacitate: shoot to kill in essence.

Having listened to the driver of the truck on Close Up tonight (I'll add the link when it comes online) it is crystal clear the requirements of F61 were present. Stephen Hohepa McDonald had to be shot to incapacitate him.

Having met this requirement, it seems it then becomes an issue of how much care the officer took in taking aim and pulling the trigger. Again, this cannot be judged against the ordinary standard of a deer hunter in the Ureweras. Such a deer hunter is simply not operating in the same circumstances as police are who make split-second decisions when aiming and pulling the trigger. The deer hunter might have minutes to settle himself, confirm his target etc. The police have seconds. I have been in this position. It is not pleasant. Nor is it easy.

This is not the movies or series 5, episode 6 of 24. It's real. And in real life situations like this it sometimes doesn't matter how much training one has because you need real life situations to put the training into practice.

Thankfully in New Zealand we have very, very few of these real life situations.

I doubt the police officer will be charged. He was, as Greg O'Connor rather crudely put, "just doing his job". Of course O'Conner said this and made his 'odd' statements knowing the Idiot/Savants and Bombers of this world would be calling for the officers head. That's why he went on the defensive.

I'm not caling for the officers head. Leave him alone. He was doing his job. The fact he missed his target is a reflection of how many times police pull triggers in this country in real life situations. Fortunately for all of us that is very infrequently.

But there is a better and more important reason why this officer should not be charged. And that is because the very next time an officer has to make that split-second decision to shoot an armed and extremely dangerous offender they will be thinking "gee, if I fuck this up I might go to jail". And they may hesitate, and someone could die.

And then the Idiot/Savants and Bombers of this world will be baying for their blood asking why they are wearing the uniform if they are not prepared to do their job.

Get my point?

* Unable to recall the specifics and not able to be Googled.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gooner that is the biggest load of bollocks I have ever read. First up I had three tours of duty in a war so unllke you who was a cop on a force that is not armed as a rule, I actually have been in similar situations.

No sniper or law enforcement officer that has any degree of training or skill, pulls a trigger unless they have acquired a clear shot. Jesus with your blast and hope attitude NZ police had better never be armed. (And I am the biggest supporter for arming the police)

There is always the chance that some-one may move into the line of fire, but this victim was stationary in a vehicle and here is the rub, there was another car in front of him also stationary.

What you are suggesting is up there with a man standing in a crowd with a knife to some-one's throat, and the cops opening up and killing a few people in the crowd with the hope of hitting the offender. In any event, this was a major cluster fuck. In the end the did not even hit the offender, he was hit by shrapnel.

Van

KG said...

To call for the officer's actions to be examined and judged in a court of law is not "calling for the officer's head" at all.
It's simply to make sure that a police officer's actions are both legal and that they meet the public's expectations of the role of the police in our society.
Having the police act as judge and jury in these cases does neither them nor the public any good at all.
I recall a police officer was recently convicted of assaulting a suspect in the back of a police car--should that case not have come to court either? Should the officer concerned have escaped being judged by a jury on the basis that he was just doing a difficult job?
What you're suggesting is that the police become a law unto themselves.

KG said...

"The fact he missed his target is a reflection of how many times police pull triggers in this country in real life situations."
Then the training is inadequate.
(I served in the S.A.police and later in the Army and I know what excellent firearms training looks like)

Gooner said...

Van, I am the biggest opponent of arming our police.

Yes, there were 'line of fire' possibilities. I guess Richard Neville might have something to say about the AOS not firing at McDonald.

KG, I think you and Van are missing the point that very, very rarely do police in this country encounter the situation that occurred on Friday. I argue that no amount of training can prepare for such a one-off situation. From the Herald photos it seems the offender was side on the cops. I guess they should have told him to stand front on to get a shot at centre mass.

KG said...

Well Gooner, I'll willingly concede that it's a rare situation for a NZ police officer to find himself in, and whether firearms training could adequately prepare him for it is at least arguable.
But the core issue is whether a police officer who takes a life should face a court of law.
I believe he should, for the reason I outlined above. After all, if he acted responsibly and in accordance with policy he has nothing to fear.

Ed Snack said...

He fucked up, big time. Prosecute him for taking a bad decision making by firing without acquiring his target and by shooting with others in his line of fire, needlessly. Van has it right. Also, he wasn't the only one to able to shoot, he should not have pulled the trigger, and police should not be immune to the law.

Psycho Milt said...

So many people out there have already completed their exensive media-based investigation into this incident and reached a firm conclusion (which goes for Greg O'Connor as much as for the blogosphere). Is it too much to ask that we might leave the investigators who actually get the facts in front of them to decide whether this poor sod gets to stand in the dock or not?

Anonymous said...

The real question is: do we want our police to protect us or not? Do we want crims in NZ or not.


What you are suggesting is up there with a man standing in a crowd with a knife to some-one's throat, and the cops opening up and killing a few people in the crowd with the hope of hitting the offender


Yep. Frankly, that is a worthwhile risk. As in any other way, bystanders will get hurt: but they are not innocent and are no uninvolved. if they are workers, well they will be on the side of the cops ridding NZ of crims and bludgers: if some workers are hit in the crossfire - so be it. If they are crims or bludgers they deserve everything they get.

NZ police should be armed. The victim being a crim, a bludger, or the police having resonable suspicion of either should prevent any inquiry - let along a court case. These conditions were met in this situation.

it's a rare situation for a NZ police officer to find himself in

Precisely. That's what NZ's culture of complaint and protest has got to. There are tinny houses and gang houses and bludgers in every town and city in NZ. And the police do nothing to stop them, let alone using the kind of force that gets quick results.

We can only hope that National & ACT will fix this soon.

KG said...

After reading the latest insane rant by Anonymous, one can only hope that he's one of the bystanders caught in the crossfire.
It'd give the gene pool a boost, at least.

Anonymous said...

Look, KG, it's like anywhere else.

Take Israel bombing Hamas: they get a few civilian supporters of terrorism along the way - big deal.

Same here. If we want the cops to take on gangs and crims we can be sure there will be some people really caught in the crossfire. But that's a price worth paying.

Do you want crims, bludgers, unionists, and labourists in NZ or not? Simple question. Simple answer.

Harpoon said...

Gooner. I/S did not say the stuff you say he said. He did not argue that the Police have no right to shoot people.

Anonymous said...

Point noted Harpoon. I think we’d agree that he is saying police are like anyone else who mistakenly shoot people. I say they are not, they are different and need to be treated differently.

Gooner

Anonymous said...

Gooner, Asking Richard Neville is about as relevant as asking me. Ask the family of the courier driver.

Look the cops have a tough job. And it is at times, no, most of the time, a thankless job. However consider this.If a doctor is found to NEGLIGENT and a patient dies, we bay for their blood.

When judges and parole boards let out crims with violent records, and they go on to kill again, we raise merry hell.

This is not about the police. This is about a policeman. And this is about an innocent bystander. Does the police have the right to shoot? Absolutely, to PROTECT the innocent, not to kill them. This is not firing rockets across boarders or bombs, this is about using a very accurate weapon.
Van

Psycho Milt said...

If a doctor is found to NEGLIGENT and a patient dies, we bay for their blood.

And if a cop is found to have killed someone through negligence, he'll face a similar reaction, and fair enough too. So far though, no-one's been found to be negligent, except in the blogosphere kangaroo court of ill-informed opinion.

Anonymous said...

If other police think as you do, maybe it's time for everyone to buy body armor. I kinda hoped the police were more than just a gang in blue colours.

Matt said...


If a doctor is found to NEGLIGENT and a patient dies, we bay for their blood.

Rarely do we get it. It's accepted that patients die, even sometimes through a doctor's negligence, but unless it was completely egregious in nature and with regard to all the circumstances the worst that normally happens is that they'll get told to be more careful.

Matt said...

Gooner, you're after the following excerpt from Standing Order F61-

To defend themselves or others if they fear death or GBH and cannot protect themselves or others in a less violent manner

Anonymous said...

Psycho Milt said...
And if a cop is found to have killed someone through negligence, he'll face a similar reaction, and fair enough too. So far though, no-one's been found to be negligent, except in the blogosphere kangaroo court of ill-informed opinion.

Which is exactly why he needs to be prosecuted. So that he can found innocent (or guilty) of "killing someone through negligence" in a transparent manner. As I understand it, I/S is not arguing that the policeman should be convicted. He is arguing that the policeman should be prosecuted. Whether the policeman is convicted or not is up to the jury, the evidence, and the normal judicial process.

Sean said...

IMHO, s 62 Crimes Act essentially requires that there be a trial; how can the issue otherwise be determined:

"62 Excess of force

Every one authorised by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess, according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess."

The authorisation in question stems from s 48:

"48 Self-defence and defence of another

Every one is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use."

backin15 said...

Gooner, this is a useful contribution on this important matter. I know nothing of these issues but appreciate the different views expressed here. It appears nothing short of a tragic situation. My only comment is to echo the criticisms of O'Connor. I think he's a very poor advocate as he appears unable to think beyond a narrow interpretation of his members' interests.

KG said...

"If we want the cops to take on gangs and crims we can be sure there will be some people really caught in the crossfire. But that's a price worth paying.
I guess it is, since you're statistically unlikely to be one of those paying it.

Do you want crims, bludgers, unionists, and labourists in NZ or not? Simple question. Simple answer.

Simple question, complex answer.
No, I don't particularly want those people around. I loathe 'em all.But I'm also very well aware of unintended consequences and just how mind-bogglingly complex society is.
Ever wondered how many perfectly ordinary, decent people rely on the business of fighting crime? How many billions of dollars are involved there?
How if the money supply were to be suddenly cut off from the bludger class, we'd have created a predator class instead?
How in demonising all unionists you ignore the possibility of ruthless and exploitative businessmen? (and believe me, I loathe unions!)
You get the picture...and we could argue about it all day.
Doesn't alter my position on the police shooting one bit though--any policeman who takes a life should face a court of law, if only to maintain public confidence in their integrity.

Anonymous said...

I don't particularly want those people around. I loathe 'em all.

right. so grant the police and concerned citizens if necessary the means to deal with them.

How if the money supply were to be suddenly cut off from the bludger class, we'd have created a predator class instead?

not for long. And again, grant the police the power to deal with them.

How in demonising all unionists you ignore the possibility of ruthless and exploitative businessmen? (and believe me, I loathe unions!)

I don't see "ruthless and exploitative businessmen" as a problem. I seem the as a very big part of the solution. They're called capitalists. Being ruthless and exploitative is precisely the point of being in business.

Anonymous said...

The real crime committed here is sending police officers out in the big bad world without the level of training/competence required. The (ir)responsible managers within the police force will skulk away without being called to account yet again.

I have no problem with armed police - just so long as they actually know how to use their firearms. The level of training and competence is woeful.

A prime example of the poor quality training is the number of police that tried to shoot a big black dog at close range and missed with a number of shots - in a built up neighbourhood. Did anyone learn anything from that? They should have.

Paranormal

KG said...

"Being ruthless and exploitative is precisely the point of being in business."
err...no it isn't. The point of being in business is to make a profit.
And that isn't a licence to exploit an abuse people--plenty of businesses treat their employees very well indeed yet still manage to make a profit.
Fairness and justice are a two-way street, if a businessman wants and expects his employees to give their work the best they're able, then employees are entitled to an expectation of fair treatment in return.
For all that many (most?) unions are corrupt and self-serving, they're often the only protection employees have.
The counter-argument to that of course is that "employees are free to leave." But in the real world that isn't quite true in many cases.