Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: A Weird Day in the Hood

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  • Tomorrowpeople,

    The young guy died from a "single entry into the chest".

    That does not sound like a random, miscalculated shot to me.

    Sounds like the shooter got the wrong guy.
    If they were shooting a the offender on teh back of the truck, how the hell does the guy in the van get a bullet in the chest?

    The Craps tables at the B… • Since Nov 2006 • 188 posts Report Reply

  • James Liddell,

    the problem is that Police officers actually need serious, reality-based advocacy and O'Connor isn't bringing the A-game, IMO.

    You're entirely right, Craig. And, as you noted above, Police officers keep on re-electing him. (Google tells me he's the longest serving Pres in the Association's history.) So I'm assuming the majority of the membership likes the way he operates.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2007 • 102 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    And I think I/S is probably right about this - anyone else would be put through the process of going to court - the police would say "let's just let the courts decide" so to do anything different in this situation is hypocritical.

    The police have never "let the courts decide" a police shooting. Ever. The only prosecution of a cop who shot someone was the private prosecution of Abbott, by the enraged and vindictive Wallace clan.

    Also, and this is a key distinction, nobody else has a job of shooting at people (I'll ignore soldiers). Anybody else is, at the very least, defending why they were shooting at another person.

    I'll point out that Greg Carvell was not prosecuted for shooting the man who invaded his gun shop with a machete. He was prosecuted for a breach of the law relating to storage of firearms. So saying that the police always leave it to the courts in the case of a civilian shooting is somewhat inaccurate. There have been precious few cases of civilians shooting other civilians in defence of themselves or another, and the most recent case did not result in a prosecution for attempted murder, some form of aggravated assault, or even careless use of a firearm.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Tomorrowpeople,

    In regard to Judith Collins.

    I get the feeling she is trying to make herself look good in the job, being a newbie and all, by taking an active role in getting the PM to set up an investigation and offering compo.

    None of these things are bad but she is playing it off that bat right from the start so she doesn't get accused of turning a blind eye or being unsympathetic.

    The Craps tables at the B… • Since Nov 2006 • 188 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So I'm assuming the majority of the membership likes the way he operates.

    Which suggests something about police recruitment practices and culture.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    If they were shooting a the offender on teh back of the truck, how the hell does the guy in the van get a bullet in the chest?

    By being directly behind the spot where the offender on the back of the truck was meant to have been? That's the logical explanation, and looking at the photos of the scene it's entirely possible. The vehicles are quite sufficiently close together for a missed shot to have hit the driver of the van.

    As for the chest, look at the heights. A person sitting in a van is a pretty close height match to trying to hit the body of someone crouched on the back of a fairly low truck.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So a legal question for everyone:
    If an armed intruder breaks into your P-lab and tries to steal your crack, can you shoot them and claim defense of property?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    I/S is demanding a prosecution of the officer who fired, but if he was acting on an express order, who's culpable?

    I believe that question was answered rather decisively at Nuremberg.

    But we should certainly look at the procedures and orders given as well.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    One of the Kiwiblog regulars, Gooner, is an ex-cop and he has an interesting post on the issue.

    It was interesting. The ex-army guy who then ragged him out reminds me so much of my flatmate in ozzie who had been trained in the army for several years. He had contempt for the police, on account of how little training they had with their guns. But he conceded my point that conditions that police operate under are totally different to soldiers. To a soldier, the gun is his life. He carries it in his hands any time he's doing his job. He knows where it is at all times (he related to me an incident where he briefly became unaware of where his gun was, and suffered many hours of grueling disciplinary action, and was nicknamed accordingly, so as never to forget). He tests it regularly. He certainly doesn't leave it in the boot of his car for months on end, because he doesn't want to find that the sights are out of alignment, or that it's become dirty, when he actually needs it. On a daily basis, he will fire it at targets in scenarios simulating combat. Furthermore, if he has seen any action, he has actually been in real combat, and knows how to keep calm whilst under fire.

    All of these expectations are far too much even for the heavily armed Australian police, let alone the 'never even had to get the weapon out of the boot' NZ police. Hence the large number of slayings at the hands of the Australian police, compared to NZ.

    I am totally opposed to police carrying firearms on their person, except for AOS, but I will not hold them responsible without a ton of evidence, for using them in a situation where it is warranted, and not being Annie Oakley.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    __I/S is demanding a prosecution of the officer who fired, but if he was acting on an express order, who's culpable?__

    I believe that question was answered rather decisively at Nuremberg.

    Was that a Godwin? Perhaps we could establish that the ultimate judgement lay with the officer pulling the trigger without introducing a comparison with Nazi war crimes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    If an armed intruder breaks into your P-lab and tries to steal your crack, can you shoot them and claim defense of property?

    No. To quote s53 of the Crimes Act 1961:
    Every one in peaceable possession of any movable thing under a claim of right, and every one acting under his authority, is protected from criminal responsibility for defending his possession by the use of reasonable force, even against a person entitled by law to possession, if he does not strike or do bodily harm to the other person.

    Shooting somebody doesn't qualify as "not... do[ing] bodily harm".

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Glenn Pearce,

    That does not sound like a random, miscalculated shot to me.

    I have to say that was my initial thought as well but Naitako was still in the Van

    From the photos, the cab of Naitoko's van is directly behind (and I mean directly behind) where they describe McDonald as being on the back of the flat deck.

    A "pass through" , complete miss or ricochet seems most likley.
    You'd then have to question the officer shooting with that backdrop.

    Very, very unlucky for it to be a direct hit in the chest though.

    I'll wait for the full facts to emerge.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    There have been precious few cases of civilians shooting other civilians in defence of themselves or another, and the most recent case did not result in a prosecution for attempted murder, some form of aggravated assault, or even careless use of a firearm.

    In defence of themselves or another is completely fair. I'm not suggesting this officer should be charged with shooting at the bad guy - at least as it's been reported so far, it seems the shooting was absolutely appropriate.

    Carvell shot the guy with the machete. Officer X, or whatever his name turned out to be, shot the guy with the golf club (never mind the sequences of errors that lead to his being within range of the golf club). But this case, with an innocent bystander being shot, is unprecedented - so it seems, if for that reason alone, that it should go through the courts.

    The problem here isn't the shooting - I absolutely believe that people should be able to defend themselves by whatever means necessary, and that people who can't defend themselves should be defended by others - the problem here is that they hit the wrong guy.

    What would happen if I did that? They'd throw the bloody book at me.

    All this said, I'm not blind to the fact that we still don't have a complete picture of everything that happened, and I'm open to the possibliity that there was some special circumstance that makes it clear that going through the courts would serve no purpose but to prolong the agony of an officer over an honest and genuine mistake. But all things being equal, it's the courts job to decide if it was a mistake, or if it was manslaighter.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Was that a Godwin?

    Hardly. Merely a legal observation, pointing at the most powerful and far-reaching precedent.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Was that a Godwin?

    Why is it that all discussion using a computer as a medium has to follow rules invented by some geek in 1989?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Hardly. Merely a legal observation, pointing at the most powerful and far-reaching precedent.

    Well it didn't reach much further than the vanquished. And it is a Godwin, although mentioning that is not a particularly sound refutation of anything. The lessons of WW2 are not less relevant just because they get used a lot. But it's massive hyperbole to apply any findings at Nuremberg to an accidental slaying in NZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    The problem here isn't the shooting - I absolutely believe that people should be able to defend themselves by whatever means necessary, and that people who can't defend themselves should be defended by others - the problem here is that they hit the wrong guy.

    What would happen if I did that? They'd throw the bloody book at me.

    I'm not a surgeon, so if I perform an operation on someone and they die the authorities would throw the book at me - but our laws allow for medical doctors to cut people up, just as they allow police officers to use deadly weapons around civilians.

    If a patient dies because a surgeon is careless then that person is legally liable but if the patient dies because the operation is really hard and the patient is really sick then we accept that horrible things sometimes happen.

    In this instance the police were dealing with a hostage situation in moving traffic on a crowded roadway - its hard to imagine a more difficult situation. If the investigation determines the AOS acted in a careless manner then I'm all for the officer being prosecuted, but we also have to accept that if we give police the right to shoot at people in public things are occasionally going to go wrong and horrible things will happen as a result.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    He carries it in his hands any time he's doing his job.

    For infantrymen. Cooks, signallers and drivers, to name a few military trades, would be rather impaired in their job if they had a bloody great gun to hold while peeling spuds or driving a truck.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    it's the courts job to decide if it was a mistake, or if it was manslaighter.

    It's almost certain that it won't be manslaughter. They don't usually charge hunters who kill another person with manslaughter, and that's a far less defensible act than this. It'll be careless use of a firearm, unless there's some incredible act of egregious stupidity on the part of the officer involved, of which we're yet to hear. And just looking at the photos and doing the math it's hard to see how that could possibly be presented in court in such a manner that a second-year law student couldn't impart enough reasonable doubt that conviction would be impossible.
    Careless use is the ordinary charge for people who kill someone else with a firearm by being, well, careless.

    The other consideration, and one of which the prosecutors will be very aware, is that if they put this officer up for manslaughter they will do nothing good whatsoever for the general safety of the NZ public. It was bad enough with the private prosecution of Abbott, but to be prosecuted by the Crown would really make every officer faced with a lethal force situation think, potentially for far too long, very hard about the possibility that they'll end up in jail. Our cops don't need that kind of fear hanging over them, because they're just not prone to being trigger-happy. Doubts and excessive consideration for their own well-being could cost an innocent person their life.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    There was one "eye witness" report in the paper of the offender barrelling through a roadblock while 2 police officers "chatted".

    Sort of Dukes of Hazard / Gumball Rallyesque was the picture painted.

    I sincerely hope that wasn't the case

    Just reading your description of what the eye witness said should resolve that.

    I mean, if you were manning a roadblock, and a car came barrelling through, would you sit around chatting?

    At the very least you'd be getting the fuck out the way, having a chitchat to your partner would be the last thing on your mind. The reporter should think about what he's reporting before publishing it.

    Your point that paper targets don't move or shoot back isn't lost on me,but if I can hit a running target through trees with a piece-of-shit rented paintball gun I'd never even held before 5 minutes ago, a trained experienced marksman should be able to hit ANYTHING you ask him to.

    I think a comparison with playing paintball, and having to shoot and possibly kill someone, aren't really valid. There's just a few more factors in play when you've pursued an offender for an hour, they have a gun, you fear for your own safety, and yet you have to go and protect the public. You've probably been on trigger edge for a number of minutes, and you've just got a sudden order to shoot the offender.

    AOS members are no more trained marksmen/women than any other police officer, which is not much. Police get a few paid hours on the range a year. AOS do some specialist training with their weapon, but it's still not much. Any more than that is on their own time. If we want expert shots in the police, we should pay for more of their time to go on shooting practice. We don't, so we get police officers who are average shots.

    Despite all these factors, compare the number of NZ police officers who have been killed in the line of duty (numerous, including a bunch that have been shot), with the total number of innocent bystanders shot in their history (up until this week, none, now one).

    And I think I/S is probably right about this - anyone else would be put through the process of going to court - the police would say "let's just let the courts decide" so to do anything different in this situation is hypocritical.

    If these people don't suffer any of the same legal repercussions we do when they get things wrong, where is their incentive to do better?

    That's silly. Police have certain powers which they use in carrying out their duty. If every time a police officer shoots someone as part of their duty they get prosecuted, there's going to be a lot less police officers willing to arm themselves when they need to. You're sure as hell going to find no volunteers for AOS duty. This is the job where at a moment's notice you get put on a plane and sent to hunt for some whackjob like David Gray, armed to the teeth and already killed a dozen people. It's not exactly family friendly.

    The same principle could be applied to a police officer restraining someone while arresting them. For an ordinary civilian, that restraint would be assault. Are we going to prosecute every technical assault that a police officer commits to find the few who have gone over the top?

    The law allows police officers to use lethal force under certain conditions. The police need to use all applicable laws when they consider whether or not to prosecute, including the Police Act. What would be the point of prosecuting when the police officer was acting legally?

    The public needs to get their head around the fact that sometimes the police are going to have to shoot people, and that's the end of it. The PCA do an investigation, the police officer is cleared, and we move on.

    We can then have a lot more confidence that when police officers end up being prosecuted in court, that they've actually done something wrong rather than being put through the ringer for appearance's sake.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Doubts and excessive consideration for their own well-being could cost an innocent person their life.

    I'll have to differ with you on Abbott, but I have been wondering what kind of media clamour we'd be hearing now if the AOS officer hadn't taken that shot and Richard Neville had been shot in the back of the head.

    The reaction of people like Jim Hopkins to the police caution in the Navtej Singh case (he deemed them "cowards") suggests it wouldn't be pretty.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    And it is a Godwin

    No, it's not. Godwin's law says that the longer an internet argument runs for, the closer to 1 grow the chances of one party comparing the other party to Hitler or the Nazis. The corollary is that the party doing the comparison has lost the argument, and is what leads to people being declared to have "done a Godwin" or similar.
    Have a read. So Russell was wrong to call it a Godwin, and you were wrong to affirm it as a Godwin. It was a perfectly valid reference, not a comparison, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the actions of the Nazis.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Rich, I was wondering who would get the prize for being pedantic about that. But even the cook is expected to know where his gun is, and keep it in working order.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    Some questions (because even the devil needs an advocate):

    McDonald was finally arrested, not shot dead. How were police able to do that? If lethal force was not used to "take him down" (euphemisms be damned - we mean kill him), then to what extent was it the best - or only - option?

    He has been described as a "rampaging gunman" (eg TV3 news). Strictly speaking, this is true. He was rampaging, he had a gun, he fired (allegedly etc). But it makes it sound like Virginia Tech, as if the (alleged) offender was intent on killing, or had already done so. The charges suggest that he was firing, and was therefore an extreme danger, but not that he was on a murder spree.

    Of course, the police do not and should not wait for dead bodies before responding. But the response needs to be held up to scrutiny. Did they make us (and themselves) safer? Was good judgement exercised, even before the tragic death of an innocent man? We cannot pre-empt the courts, but so far McDonald has not even been charged with offences that would lock him away for life. So when should police be empowered to execute? Was this such a case? I'd like to know if the AOS were right to open fire in the first place. - or rather, I'd like somebody to be asking that. Not just automatically assuming that's now "normal" in NZ - God help us if it is.

    These questions are not for the officer who fired the fatal bullet (unless s/he was in charge of the operation). The focus on one individual is not the core issue. There are serious questions here for the police. And for the media, who should be asking them rather than parroting O'Connor spin. Let's get past "nobody wanted this to happen", which is so bleeding obvious it's a haemorrhage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1330 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    I have been wondering what kind of media clamour we'd be hearing now if the AOS officer hadn't taken that shot and Richard Neville had been shot in the back of the head.

    The reaction of people like Jim Hopkins to the police caution in the Navtej Singh case (he deemed them "cowards") suggests it wouldn't be pretty.

    Damned if they do, damned if they don't. I put it to a friend the other day, that unless the cops get it 100% right 100% of the time they're considered to be incompetent/cowardly/<insert pejorative adjective>. The standard demanded of the police is far higher than the standard demanded of any other public service, it seems. Reading the report about the Tamihere explosion, for example, potentially raises questions about the actions of the fire fighters (to be perfectly clear, I am not suggesting anything!). But they were going on what was known to them at the time, and it just turned out to be all kinds of bloody horrible. The media hasn't actually jumped on them for that, but in the same situation I suspect that the police would be getting reamed six ways from Sunday.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

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