Kiwi Polemicist

September 11, 2008

The Police Bill: police and politicians make an unholy cabal

Samuel Dennis has written a post on the Police Bill: he’s covered the issues well and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so please have a look at it. Basically the Police Bill and the removal of access to the Privy Council gives the government more control over justice, which is characteristic of totalitarianism.

I think that the Sheriff system in the USA has some merit. It is still socialised law enforcement and thus not compatible with classical liberalism, but it is a step in the right direction because it makes law enforcement officials directly accountable to the people they serve.

Basically the people of each county elect a new sheriff every four years – he’s the chief of the police force of that county. He operates under the laws created by the various levels of government, but has some discretion in his enforcement of them. If the people think that he’s not working hard enough to catch drunk drivers they’ll vote him out; conversely, if he turns a blind eye to breaches of an unpopular law forbidding the wearing of blue jeans they’ll vote him back in. If the people vote in a nincompoop they wear the consequences of their foolishness. This system goes a little way towards reducing the power of the government over the people.

Joseph Arpaio of Maricopa County is an excellent example of the system at work. He’s in his fourth term as sheriff, and is popular because his hard line has reduced crime by 20%. That hard line includes chain gangs for men and women, a desert prison comprised of tents, and public humiliation of criminals on the internet (personally, I disagree with details of arrestees being publicly displayed prior to conviction). He tried to take TV out of the prison, but Federal law prevents such wanton cruelty so he gives them just the weather channel: that way they can see how hot it is in their tents (I heard him say that latter part, what a hoot). He does give educational and other opportunities to inmates who earn the privilege. Clearly the people of Maricopa County like his methods because they keep re-electing him: broadly speaking, he is doing the will of the majority of the people.

Compare this to New Zealand, where there is no direct way for the population to influence the police. The Prime Minister now appoints the Police Commissioner, so she controls the police, and for all intents and purposes she appoints the Chief Justice. The Police Bill just strengthens her control over the people of this country and makes the PM less accountable to the police and the courts. This is at a time when the police and the PM both show increasing contempt for the will of the people.

Maricopa County has 3.8 million people, almost the size of New Zealand, and the sheriff system works well. I believe that NZ would be a safer place if we could vote in the Police Commissioner and the Chief Justice. This would make the police and the judiciary accountable to the people that they (theoretically) serve, rather than to despotic Prime Ministers who flout the law.



  1. Allowing the public to elect the Police Commissioner and Chief Justice is a novel idea, and with a lot of merit. I’ll keep it in mind.

    Comment by Mr Dennis — September 11, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  2. […] * the PM now appoints the Police Commissioner […]

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  3. […] police are are now controlled by the Prime Minister, so giving the police more “numbers” and “muscle” is giving the PM more […]

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  4. […] The new Police Act shows this truth graphically, because the Prime Minister now appoints the Police Commissioner. […]

    Pingback by Who are the police really serving? « Kiwi Polemicist — October 21, 2008 @ 7:21 am

  5. […] politicised police can be trusted to tell the truth. Moreover, we live in a country where the Prime Minister appoints the police commissioner and the police are not accountable to the citizens in any meaningful […]

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  6. […] would the woman who bought in the Electoral Finance Act* and who gave herself much more control over the police and courts know about “democratic […]

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