After the Crisis: policing NSW

You may have had a chance to read Dr Simon Rice’s piece in The Saturday Paper ‘Unstoppable Police Force’

As someone who has studied drug policing in NSW for over two decades it really resonated. After two inquires (one by the Coroner, into music festival deaths, the other on ice) your government has chosen to ignore the evidence and advice from experts and side with police powers and “sending a message”.

I wonder if this is the best message to be sending. Lives are at stake.

The NSW police force now has unprecedented powers and there is no independent agency of oversight to review their use of these and hold them to account. Over the last months they have been patrolling LGAs of concern and throughout the pandemic they have been eager to cite Covid to justify any overstep or heavy-handedness or unethical apprehension of, for example, carefully organised, Covid prevention-sensitive protests. 

I am not sure if you are aware, but they have been very active patrolling venues known around town to be used by gay men occasionally as beats, making arrests, using undercover agents to entrap men visiting those places for such purposes, including the toilet block in the Domain, right behind NSW parliament, and Rushcutters Bay Park by night. And then there were those poor chaps nude sunbathing and their run-in with the deer. Did you see the look on Mick Fuller’s face when he got to announce that one? He loved every queer-baiting second of it. 

Of course they will say this is all about preventing the spread of disease. That’s what they said in the 1980s.

When Covid calms down the police will still have their powers and they will be feeling emboldened to use them in ways that end up harming the most vulnerable groups in our society. Migrants, racial minorities, queers, the homeless, indigenous communities – and those who care enough about the vulnerability of our environment and social institutions to protest about it 

Your government is now in a good place. You have managed the delta-outbreak exceptionally well, all things considered. But please, before it is too late, reinstate an independent body to review police conduct and hold it to account. Like the Ombudsman Troy Grant abolished in 2006 (the very same year that body released its damning report on the abuse of police powers (drug detection dogs), curiously enough!). But this time an Ombudsman with teeth.

You might seriously consider changing their name back to the NSW Police SERVICE in the process.

That’s their job isn’t it? That’s what they claimed to be doing these last months in LGAs of concern (though I doubt residents of those areas saw it that way): SERVING THE COMMUNITY. 

We pay for them. They need reigning in and you can do it. Quit with the paramilitary theatrics (those uniforms!) and exorbitant spending on dogs, and show your constituents you care. That they ought to too. They are not a Force, they are a service – or should be.

It’s all about sending a message. The only message worth sending in the circumstances. The only decent one

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