Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Crossing the thin blue line

We have only one police officer for every 528 people.
We have only one police officer for every 528 people.

Imagine it wasn't grannies the police were stalking, but you. In this case, the grannies met each other on a Sunday afternoon to talk about euthanasia. Police got wind of it and wanted to know who was at the meeting.

So, they set up a fake booze checkpoint. They took the name of every granny who passed through, then paid them each a visit at home.

Again, imagine it wasn't the grannies. It was you.

It wasn't euthanasia you were discussing, it was the merits of legalising marijuana for medicinal reasons.

Or, it was the pros and cons of communism.

Or it was the shiny new rifle you were showing off at gun club.

Views on euthanasia aside- or for that matter guns, communism and marijuana - there are a bunch ofreasons we don't want the police to go full Miami Vice on us and set up traps and hoaxes.

Some of the reasons are about the law.

Some of them are about priorities.

And some of them are about the police looking less like the New York heroes of 9/11(I'm struggling to find a relevant local example of police heroism) and more like a bunch of bullies.

For a start, it's not legal.

Setting up a booze checkpoint that's notreally about checking for booze breaks the rules of what police are allowed to do.

They can't collect names and addresses for other reasons.

Rob Muldoon is not in charge any more.

In a weird way, it's a good thing the police went after grannies and not gang members.

If it was a group of patched thugs and even if they were meeting for completely innocent reasons-like Philosophy Club, or a discussion on the evils of P, strangerthings have happened- we would probably shrug our shoulders and say the ends justify the means.

And that would be dangerous. Because we'd be giving the police our blessing to carry on like this is Putin's Russia.

But they went after grannies, thankfully.

If you don't believe we'd shrug our shoulders over gangs, please refer to the RedDevils case, where police falsified convictions for one of their officers to give him some street cred.

The courts said police possibly committed "serious criminal offending", threw the case out and most of us didn'treally care.

Police priorities are a bit mixed up here.

Aren't there burglaries to solve? I mean nearly 60,000 unsolved burglaries in 2015 alone.

And isn't there a situation in Ngaruawahia where a patched gang member has launched a P war and is masquerading as the law and order in town?

There aren't enough cops in this country to spare for the hours it takes for a scheme like the fake road block.

We have only one police officer for every 528 people.

In Australia, it's one for every 432 citizens.

The figures are worse when you compare them to downtown Brisbane, where it's one uniform for every 160 people.

This feels a lot like intimidation.

With these grannies, you wonder why police didn't knock on the door and say, "Hey, we're a little worried about you guys."

If the point was to drop off suicide prevention leaflets, they could have knocked on the door and done one delivery, instead of waiting to get each granny on her own.

After this all went public, Inspector Chris Bensemann put out a press release defending his team.

He said: "Police are responsible for enforcing New Zealand's laws, and currently suicide or encouraging/helping someone to commit suicide is illegal in New Zealand."

Suicide's not illegal.

It hasn't been since 1893. Pays to know the law if you're trying to enforce the law.

And while you're at it, follow it, too

- Herald on Sunday

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Heather du Plessis-Allan is a columnist for the Herald on Sunday

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a thirty-something living between Auckland and Wellington. She has more than a decade's experience hosting and reporting on TV and radio. Heather's worked in Parliament's Press Gallery, covered the 2012 London Olympic Games, and reported from as far afield as Antarctica.

Read more by Heather du Plessis-Allan

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