Behind the blue line: ‘Kiwi cop’ speaks out

Amid public criticism of both the Police Commissioner and the force’s flagship television show, an anonymous account has appeared online claiming to offer a look at life behind the blue line.

In a post on the social media site Reddit, the officer, who identified themselves as a frontline constable working in Auckland and went under the name PolicingInGreatStyle,answered questions from the public.

The exchange offered a rare look at what New Zealand police really think of some of the hot-button issues facing police today, such as gangs, firearms and “woke” culture.

A police spokesperson told the Herald that, due to the anonymous nature of the post, they were unable to confirm whether the person was a serving police officer.

Here is what the “officer” had to say:

On speeding and issuing tickets

Asked whether police “focus on speeding” was the correct way to tackle the road toll, the officer said: “We can only do as much as we can do. It’s a cultural thing, and we need to sort it out.”

“People have a terrible attitude towards speeding, and for some, it will probably take a close-to-home tragedy in order to change their attitudes towards road safety.

“When I see people driving fast, texting on their phones etc, putting others lives at risk, I can only think that that person is extremely arrogant, selfish, and lacking in consideration for the value of other people’s lives.

“Education around the subject only goes so far, and I think that when people experience a shift in their attitudes, and aren’t motivated solely by financial penalty not to speed, then we will see a reduction in road deaths.

“Again, we can only do so much.”

Elsewhere, the officer was asked why police issued so many tickets, rather than warnings.

“We hand out heaps of warnings, verbal and informal,” they wrote.

“There is no quota, but there is pressure from the higher-ups to hand out tickets, especially after Covid for some reason. Speed, distractions, restraints etc are all huge factors in death and serious injury on our roads, but it doesn’t seem like enforcement actually changes attitudes.”

The officer said “time, place, circumstance” were key to how they applied the law on speeding motorists. and said they preferred to “engage and educate”.

They described situations where speed limits were in place for non-existent roadworks as “bulls***”.

“I think a law needs to be introduced to sort this out. I also think its bulls***. I’ve never ticketed in a roadworks zone, but I absolutely would if there were people working there and the speed was dangerous enough to the eye.”

On gangs

The constable was asked: “Is it fair to say that most general duties officers are reluctant or even scared to deal with gang members in the process of committing minor offences? Is this something that is discussed around the water cooler?

In response, the officer said most police “don’t really care” and deal with gang members like any other offender but admitted to being personally “f***ing terrified” due to the recent spate of shootings.

“That being said,” they added, “I would never ignore minor offences for one person, then go and ticket aunty betty for doing the same thing later on that day; my moral compass would implode.”

On firearms

The officer revealed that they have had a firearm presented at them in the course of their duty, but expressed concern about the level of police firearms training, responding to a question about the length of time spent training with: “I think about 20 hours per year if I’m not mistaken.”

“It’s not enough, to be fair. I understand the great debate about guns in the community, disarming the police etc. But for the time being, there are a lot of dangerous people out there with guns, who don’t know how to use them, who want to kill other dangerous people with guns, and potentially kill police officers.

“We need to be able to neutralise that threat if it ever occurred, and, as it stands, our training simply isn’t adequate.”

A police spokesperson told the Herald: “All police officers who access and use firearms are trained and certified to do so.”

“Police have a robust firearms training regime that is focused on officers using their judgment to continually assess evolving situations with a range of tools available to them to respond.This includes online tools and instructional videos available at any time, accessible on police iPhones to compliment the learning.

“Recruits receive 83 hours of instruction on firearm use while at the college. In addition to the recruit training, on an annual basis all Level 1 Responders receive firearms training as part of the Police Integrated Tactical Training.

“Training also includes high-risk vehicle stops, active armed offender, room clearing, firearms, scenario-based assessments and use-of-force policy and legislation.

“The Royal New Zealand Police College continuously reviews and develops the training both within the college and in police districts to ensure it is fit for the operational environment.This includes liaison with other policing jurisdictions internationally to understand their training programmes.”

On implicit bias – and the fear that follows

“There is a strong emphasis on bias throughout the 16-week immersion course at Police College, and then throughout the two-year probation period. Racial bias is a strong focus at the Police College and again outside of college. I went into college knowing barely anything about Māoridom, Pasifika culture, the statistical imbalances etc, and came out barely scratching the surface, but a million times better than when I went in.

“College imbues us with a strong sense of duty and empathy especially towards Māori, but it is then up to the individual agents to exercise their powers in a way that contributes to the vision of a better society.

“Unfortunately, the bias will always exist and act as a guide for us. It’s the nature of the job, hence why a “bad feeling about that car” generally turns into a mountain of paperwork.

“Does that mean we should let a dodgy car continue cruising through the suburbs in the middle of the night, because we are afraid that our bias towards that vehicle will contribute to statistics that prove those biases exist ? I don’t know. A year ago I’d be pulling anything over that I had second thoughts about, because I’ve been burgled and I’ve had that awful feeling and I’d like to be able to prevent that if possible. Now, it’s not worth my life.”

Pressed on whether their comments meant they sometimes have to turn a blind eye because of fear, they responded:

“It means, I think twice about pulling a dodgy-looking car over in the middle of the night, when I know something is wrong. Recently, I just make them aware that I’m there, and cruise like a shark behind them and shepherd them out. I don’t know if farm dogs fight wolves, if they don’t, then I’m kind of like the farm dog protecting the chickens while they sleep.”

A police spokesperson insisted that police were committed to ensuring their front-line staff were kept safe.

“While this may be the view of one officer, the wider voice of our staff is important to us,” the spokesperson said.

“Our frontline continue to be heavily involved in providing feedback on ways to enhance their safety.

“We are committed to ensuring we are doing all we can to keep our frontline responders safe as they undertake the daily challenges of delivering policing services for our communities.

“Vehicle stops are not without risk, but thankfully the majority of the roughly 2000 that we undertake every day go without incident. Our focus is ensuring our staff are trained, equipped and supported to respond to the higher-risk situations.”

On safety in Auckland's CBD

“Gangs, drugs, poverty are on the rise. Police do what they can, but ultimately the proliferation of drugs by gangs is leading to poverty and mental health issues, which you see a lot of in town.

“It’s hard because we have to balance reining in the end-users (the addicts, the victims of the gang’s lucrative trade), and targeting the gangs who are responsible for feeding and creating these withered husks of humans who then flock to areas where they have access to Winz, donations of food and money from pedestrians, shelters etc, as well as drugs.

“It is devastating, and terribly sad.”

On cannabis

“If I catch someone with an ounce dealing, I’m going to prosecute them, because they’re exacerbating the issue and they know the risks when they start trading illicitly.

“With end-users, I try to educate them that without the demand, there would be no supply. I try to educate them that a lot of the time, their product comes from gangs who use that money to fund other illicit drug trades, where human life is cheap and lost on a daily basis.”

They said that they often let people go on their way for minor infractions and cited smoking a cannabis joint as such a situation.

“Like smoking a joint at the beach. I’ll just bin it and send them on their way.
we have a tremendous amount of power to change lives, imagine giving someone a drug conviction for smoking a joint at the beach, then they can’t travel overseas to certain countries for the rest of their lives.

“The courts hopefully wouldn’t let it happen, but it would just be a very unnecessary process.”

On our family violence crisis

“I cope with these things by desensitising myself to it, while employing genuine empathy at the time. I try my best not to get too attached to all of my victims, or even offenders.

“Offenders, nine times out of 10, used to be victims of some kind. That’s the rabbit hole that’s really sad to climb down … ‘why is this person the way they are? What have they seen, done, had done to them? What have they had to endure?’

“Dealing with victims breaks my heart.”

On those perpetrating the violence, the officer revealed:

“For some reason, though, after seeing someone beat the sh***out of their partner, I just feel like they’re beyond help. It’s like their permanently damaged and beyond help, a lot of the time. They go to prison, do rehab programmes, come out Godslinging, then they beat their partner to a pulp or get straight back into the meth cycle. It’s f***ing abysmal.”

On new Police Commissioner Andy Coster

“To be frank, most workers in most organisations bitch and moan about management. Our current commissioner was a phenomenal police officer, with great values. I think the job of the commissioner is probably going to be one of the hardest jobs in the country, as you wear the scrutiny of everything we all do.

“Most people are 50/50, I personally think the stances he takes on certain things are far too soft, the wokester comment was a good jape but I wouldn’t really know.

“The bottom line is that he’s highly educated, advised by other highly educated and experienced professionals, and he is paid to make positive change within the organisation. We will see over the years how he performs, and criticism can be made then. For now, I’m just a silent observer.”

On bullying in the police

“The fact is that people (bullies) are very selective about who they talk shit about, and who they talk that s*** to. They are very clever, and very subtle with how they do things. These people are assholes, and unfortunately, they exist.

“I have experienced it first hand and I can tell you right now that we are pretty much hamstrung as to how we report and deal with it. If you’re a bully, and you know that you’re ostracising one person (or a group of people), and you are pulled up for it, especially if you’re a manager, you’re going to react badly and probably channel more negative energy into those people than identifying your personality flaws and addressing the issue.”

In response to questions from the Herald, a police spokesperson said that the organisation is “absolutely committed to improving our workplace culture” and said they have been “working hard over recent months to tackle issues raised into both the IPCA’s report into police culture, and last year’s independent review into police systems and processes for responding to bullying and harassment.”

“We are committed to ensuring every police employee can go to work each day in an environment that supports them to be and do their best,” the spokesperson said.

On public perception of NZ Police

“I don’t agree with everything that police do, and I see what other people see. If someone started telling me ‘F*** the pigs, you guys just make things worse’ I’d probably ask them to have a cup of tea with me and tell me about their experiences, so I could share some of mine with them.

“I’d tell that person that I’ve seen shit that would make me agree with them, but that there are good people here really trying to do good things, and unfortunately, we’re all out here trying to put out an Australia size bush fire with a small-town fire squad type thing.”

On hate crime

“We take hate crime very seriously. There is a recent push for hate crimes to be recorded and reported in a special way, distinguished from other types of reporting. So it is worthwhile doing so.

“Most Kiwis need to stop blowing it off. I think the prevalence of social media is helping with this, in some respects. Pro LGBTQ messages are everywhere, Pro ethnic messages are everywhere. It’s great to see the balance shifting and people being more outspoken on these issues. We need to support people to make decisions to pursue formal ramifications for bigotry and hate crime though, because without some remedial action, how can we expect others to change course?”

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