Laws: Police hands tied over legal highs

Last updated 06:00 12/05/2013
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This past week the Police Complaints Authority chastised chasing police officers after three people did a Darwin in Gisborne last July.

The facts are not in dispute: drunk Dylan Kingi attempted to avoid detection and arrest while transporting Peter Bunyan and Holly Gunn from a party at night. He sped away from the police, accelerated beyond 130kmh in a residential area, and crashed into a tree.

And normally that would be that: Darwin at work again.

As indeed the evolutionary principle appears to have been present in south Auckland on Friday night: three more people killed and this time, after the police had stopped chasing them.

Except that the above authority has criticised the pursuing police in Gisborne for not following their proper procedures. The media implication is that if the police had, then the dead trio might still be alive.

I'm sure there will be similarly those who claim such after Friday night: that the flashing lights spooked the driver into an even more crazed flight mode.

It is a scenario played out almost every weekend. The ferals, or those going through a feral phase, exactly appreciate the constraints of the police pursuit policy.

In short, if they reach dangerous speeds, the police have to abandon the chase. It is the most perverse of incentives.

So if the drivers are drunk/drugged, suspended, thieving the car, or have outstanding arrest warrants - often all four - then the sight of any interested police car seems to activate their flight mode. Vroom.

To be fair, those police involved in the Gisborne pursuit were not harshly treated. It seems that they were required to undergo some remedial training and are now back on the streets.

But yet again, a chill has frosted all activist police officers. If bad people are doing bad things, think first about letting them get away.

In many ways, the Gisborne chastisement is symptomatic of all that we do wrong when seeking to empower our police to protect us.

We hem them in with so many ridiculous laws, procedures and policies - and enable their criminal quarry so much - that it's no surprise that police morale is what it is.

Another example from the week being the farcical situation surrounding the sale of "legal highs" - the synthetic cannabinoid that is proving such a financial boon to so many dairy owners.

The police are being reduced to trying to "persuade" dairy owners not to sell the post-K2 derivatives. Fat chance - the profit is too good and the product is legal. Instead of politicians doing what they should - banning the products altogether - they have reduced police to ineffectual handwringers. Along with the emergency departments of most major hospitals. Meanwhile, the rest of New Zealand is incredulous that Parliament has been so derelict.

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So let's get this right. Parliament criminalises cannabis because it's regarded as a bad influence upon our society? But Parliament legalises cannabis-equivalents that mimic cannabis qualities - and have the same or more harmful effects? Yes, that makes sense.

The party pill industry is made up of immoral shysters. That's who they are, as individuals and as a collective. So are the dairy owners.

But let's chase their exhausts and abandon the pursuit if it looks like we might catch them. Little wonder that we shake our heads as the ferals are empowered and exonerated . . . yet again.

- Sunday Star Times


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