Posters around Wellington today 'advertise' a career in the NZ Police, saying that it's a way to hear 'great rape stories'. Such political activity no doubt reflects a widespread and increasing distrust of police in the wake of the recent acquittal of the three accused police rapists. [Read more below]
Police chiefs and the Government are coming out in support of the NZ Police, but the damage has already been done. And things might get worse, with the imminent release of the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct. However Fran O'Sullivan says the Commission is a whitewash and is likely to 'gloss over the egregious sexual misconduct', due to the fact that in attempt to smudge the issues, 'the Government directed the commission to soft-pedal its inquiries by taking a more generalist approach', thereby avoiding the current controversies.
Amazingly, some Maori Party-type politicians have defended Rickard on the basis that there is some kind of conspiracy to prevent Maori advancement and having a Maori commander of the largest police district. This is clearly nonsense – the Government and the state in general definitely desire a chunk of Maori (and women for that matter) at the top, in order to more effectively manage society. This is why O'Sullivan says an official investigation should ask 'What protection was a rising police star offered by those who wanted to get a Maori officer up high in the ranks?' Maori Party activists (and maybe even Willie Jackson) have basically sided against the rape victims. The gender-race nexus comes into play yet again.
The amalgamation of recent facts and stories to come out of police sexual abuse trials shows - as if we didn't already know - that there is a huge problem of culture within the police. All the politically correct sensitivity training that goes on in the police force can’t actually change the intrinsic nature of the police force in a screwed-up capitalist society, so there is always going to be this kind of culture somewhere in ‘the force’. However it is obvious that in the most recent cases the police hierarchy did actually seriously try to get a conviction – because the dominant ideology and practice these days is to make every part of the state quite liberal (in order to manage a fragmented society better). But the fact that these rapes occurred shows that political correctness only goes so far in an institution whose prime function is repression.
Another recent example of NZ police culture comes in ex-protester Sue Bradford's recollection of her times at protests when police had a certain attitude towards her: 'it got almost quite perverted in a way. I'd be on a demonstration, one of the more lively ones, and it was like all these police would be trying to grab me, hit me, touch me, do things to me - so that they could say they'd had contact with me. That's what it felt like, and it got quite strange that there was such intense focus on me'.
But why did the recent police trial end in a non-guilty verdict? At least part of the reason was a class issue. There is still a perception in society - and maybe the jury - that ignorant working class men have some special proclivity towards rape and violence against women. In contrast, these police officers were respectable middle class (and no doubt all in the ideologically more-law-and-order camp). Had the defendants all been members of the Mongrel Mob, it seems likely a conviction would have been certain.
One good thing to come out of the trial is the public response - which indicates that the vast majority of people are actually quite sound, especially once they have the facts. Most people think the women making the accusations have been telling the truth. There may still be problems with getting convictions for rape in the courts, but public attitudes are basically fairly sound.
(Thanks to Phil, for additional material for this post)