Police call for tough action on disrespect

By Derek Cheng

The courts have to start convicting people for insulting police to help counter a culture of disrespect for the law that leads to assaults on officers, the Police Association says.

President Greg O'Connor said low-level offences against police might seem insignificant, but they led to a disregard for the law and inevitably a loss of confidence in police and their ability to protect the public.

He said this attitude had culminated in serious assaults, such as recent attacks including an off-duty officer being bashed into a coma by teenagers and an officer having his lip bitten off by a drunk driver.

Mr O'Connor said a lack of guilty verdicts in the District Court over the years showed society and criminals that insulting police was acceptable.

There were already legal provisions that allowed charges for low-level offending, but court decisions meant that police were reluctant to use them.

He is in discussions with Police Commissioner Howard Broad to approach the judiciary with a strategic plan to improve respect for the law.

"It requires District Court judges to agree - in copybook cases - that they will convict people who are arrested for insulting behaviour.

"I'm not talking about someone just saying 'bugger off'. But, particularly in a bar situation, when police are trying to do their job and someone is yelling 'f-off pigs', police should be able to arrest them and charge them with insulting behaviour.

"Cases show that it's something police are expected to put up with, but it shouldn't be."

Police Minister Judith Collins yesterday received a report that showed an increase in the number of assaults in the past five years.

In 2004/05, there were 1869 assaults against police; in 2008/09, there were 2481. Crimes Act assaults grew from 298 to 412 over the same period, while total weapon assaults increased from 87 to 102.

The report said that assaulting a police officer had similar penalties to other assaults, and there was a strong case they should be higher.

Ms Collins has passed the report to the Justice Minister and will be discussing it with other Cabinet ministers.

- NZ Herald

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