New law giving extended powers over search and surveillance quietly came into force on 1st October. The law gives the police and dozens of govt agencies the power to stop and search anyone, anytime—simply on suspicion they might do or have done something wrong. And it then gives police and that same long list of govt agencies the powers to search homes and businesses without a warrant—as long as those agencies can articulate a suspicion that, for example, evidence is about to be destroyed. And most govt agents can be fairly articulate when they need to be.
Oh, it also lets more govt agencies carry out more surveillance operations. Presumably because those govt agencies that used to carry out surveillance operations have proved themselves so good at it.
After revelations of supreme incompetence in the Urewera and DotCom raids and surveillance, you could be forgiven for thinking this is hardly the right time to be giving further powers to proven incompetents. In fact, it never is the right time to remove from power-hungry rank incompetents the few legal safeguards protecting from their misguided ardour. Giving them carte blanche to manufacture suspicion and produce retrospective justification for doing anything they feel like to do you over, really, is never right.
There are those who disagree with me. The Herald quotes a fellow who says he did not see the changes as a massive expansion of police powers. Says who? Says the Police Assistant Commissioner.
His minions beg to differ. As part of the local Business Association, I sat through a police presentation on local crime a fortnight ago. The constable presenting was excited at how the coming new powers were going to help police clean up the streets, essentially suggesting suspicion could always be found to justify stopping and harassing anyone unwelcome in that part of town. He was excited at the new powers to enter and search without a warrant, saving the trouble of all those bothersome legal restrictions that used to hold them up.
He was so excited his eyes gleamed about the future of police operations in the brave new world of The Search and Surveillance Act, 2012.
That constable certainly say the changes as a massive expansion of police powers. And I do too.