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Do What’s Right

December 19, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Yesterday I blogged about how a special unit of the New Zealand police are spying on individuals and groups who might be seen as subversive to certain elements of society. Ironically it was during the reign of the previous, more left oriented, government that these activities began but the new government doesn’t seem to want to investigate either.

I have been asked whether I should blame the police for carrying out these activities when they have clearly come from high in the hierarchy. Is it not the police’s duty to do what they are told? Do we really want a police force which only does what it wants to instead of carrying out all the actions required by the law?

This is actually a difficult issue. If you look at either extreme you get a situation which few people would be happy with. If the police just carry out their orders without questioning them we can get into a situation where political activities can be carried out through the police. If we only expect the police to carry out operations they think they should then we get an equally bad outcome where individuals decide what they should and shouldn’t do.

So I think every individual should have some freedom in their actions no matter what the law says. Yes, if a police officer is ordered to do something but he strongly thinks its wrong then I think he should do something about it. There may not be an official mechanism where he can refuse an order but there are always unofficial paths that can be taken. He could leak the information to the news media, or to an opposition politician, for example.

So in the case of the spying on relatively peaceful organisations the police personnel involved should have seen that what they were being asked to do was not right and they should have secretly leaked it to someone to create enough embarrassment for the police leadership and any politicians involved. The activity would most probably stop after that sort of revelation!

This might sound like a recipe for anarchy, and it could easily be that if it got too out of control, but I think the option should still be taken where the individual thinks its important enough. The fact is that police management cannot be completely trusted, and I don’t mean that as an insult to them specifically because no one should be trusted 100%.

People who bypass the law and their prescribed duties to expose these situations should be admired, not punished. Following the law is not always the right answer, even for the police. I would far rather they did what was right instead of what is legal!

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