Police should be ashamed at handling of Asperger's 'looter'
Lawyer rubbishes police claims over autistic 'looter'
The lawyer for a man with Asperger's syndrome who was accused of looting in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake has rubbished police claims his client was intoxicated during his arrest.
We can all see what happened can't we? The Police, having just gone through one of the most intensely stressful day of their life are patrolling streets when they catch some young bloke who is clearly taking things from homes hit in the quake. As adults we can all step back and see how the tensions, the anger, the frustrations and stress played out, we can all see how this snowballed.
For the actions on the night, I simply can't feel anything other than sympathy for those tasked with trying to keep order in the wake of such a terrible earthquake, many perhaps knowing that friends and whanau were still in rubble.
Yes we demand high standards from the Police in their conduct at every moment, yes we train them and yes we empower them with a vast amount of power that has to always be monitored, but the Christchurch earthquake was a unique event and within that paradigm I think we must accept some things are not going to go as we demand in the best of times.
But that sympathy ends on that night. Beyond the frustrations of the Police in the heat of that moment, much cooler and wiser heads at Police HQ should have stepped in as soon as they were made aware of the dimensions of this case, because it is the Police conduct after it was glaringly apparent that Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp had aspergers which made him compulsively act out a light fittings fixation that is the real issue here.
By denying him diversion, by holding him for 11 days, by then THREATENING the bloody media with legal action for highlighting the utter injustice they were committing by refusing to back down because of their misjudged loyalty to their front line officers, the Police have done themselves a terrible disservice on a day when many NZers would hail them as heroes for their amazing handling of the Earthquake.
This is a terrible failure of leadership in the Police force, and the manner in which Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp (someone Cameron Slater was demanding be 'gut shot' for looting) has been maligned serves no one any honour in this ugly little event.
Real questions of Police leadership must be asked in this case, to threaten the media for pointing out the brutal reality of what the Police were doing to Cornelius Arie Smith-Voorkamp after the fact is simply a step too far by the Police, our media are there to hold them accountable for their actions, for the Police to turn on the media and threaten them with a legal investigation suggest a Police force that has simply been given far too much power.
Perhaps one positive out of this sorry mess will be a recognition that the power NZ Police have been allowed under the 'get tough on crime crap' has become way out of balance with the powers a Police force should posses in a Western Liberal Democracy like NZ.