- Alastair Reith
The recent series of killings in South Auckland has led to a frenzy of politician’s calls to “get tough on crime”, and for increased powers for the police and the state in general. While such “law and order” orgies come and go, there are some disturbing concrete proposals emerging from this one, in particular the call to put armed cops on the streets of Auckland 24/7.
The police are recommending a six-month trial period; if the idea is approved by Police Commissioner Howard Broad, the armed patrols could be on the streets of Auckland by March next year.
“Very, very keen” on their guns
The idea is that there be four cars, each carrying two cops and carrying Bushmaster rifles and Glock 9mm pistols. The police say they are “very, very keen” to test these “mid-range lethal weapons”. The police also want to carry other weapons, such as the Taser Xrep, which fires a Taser projectile from 12-gauge shotgun, and bean bag guns, which fired “socks” filled with shot.
Police spokesperson John Rivers said that the patrols were inspired by police in the UK for the past two decades. This is hardly a reassuring statement, given the history of the British police forces. Take the case of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, the completely innocent man murdered by British police, who shot him eight times at close range after he had been restrained. Countless similar cases in the UK, the US and other countries together make a strong case in themselves for opposing any more weapons in the hands of the police.
The police have stated that the patrols will not cover the entire city, but will instead focus on “high risk” areas. No prizes for guessing which areas these will be! Those cars won’t be spending nearly as much time in North Harbour as they do in Otara or Manurewa.
Tough on crime? Tough on poverty!
The police and their supporters will argue that police need greater access to guns in order to deal with violent crime, such as the Manuwera liquor store robbery that left Navtej Singh dead. They will argue that the solution to the perceived “crime wave” is to increase police powers, put harsher penalties in place for everything under the sun, and so on.
This approach won’t work. It doesn’t deal with the underlying root causes of crime - poverty and social deprivation. Violent crime, such as the robberies that have been so highly publicised lately, goes hand in hand with the poverty rate.
Someone growing up in a household on a secure income that pays for a decent standard of living, in a community with decent infrastructure and facilities, where nobody is stressed about paying the monthly bills, is highly unlikely to end up robbing a liquor store or joining a gang to achieve a sense of belonging and gain respect they haven’t been given by the capitalist system.
You’re not likely to see dairies getting robbed in higher income areas, nor are you likely to see many of the social problems that are prevalent in poorer areas. If poverty was eliminated, the crime rate would plunge dramatically.
True nature of the police
The role played by the police is a class society like New Zealand is not based on creating “safer communities together”. The fundamental role of the police force is to defend the rule of the capitalist class, and to defend the oppressive system we live under. This is plain to see whenever workers go on strike or are locked out - they can’t call 111 and tell the police that the boss stole their jobs! Instead, the police show clearly whose side they’re on, as they escort scabs across the picket line and arrest any workers who get too uppity.
It was also clear to see during the so-called “terror raids” late last year. The police smashed their way into homes, threatened school children with guns and blockaded entire communities in a nation wide series of arrests that targeted Maori activists, environmental campaigners and left-wingers. To this day, no terrorism-related charges have been brought against the people that were arrested, and the police themselves have admitted to being unable to produce a shred of evidence pointing to any “terrorist” activities.
The police are not friends of the working class. They are its enemies, and they exist to prop up an oppressive system that working people get no benefits from. With that in mind, it is obvious that workers have nothing to gain from the police sending armed patrol cars into working-class communities.