Be careful what you wish for

Excuses. You’ve got to love them. Years of asking for homework from teenagers has developed a keen appreciation of the fine art of invention and deflection that is required to evade any sense of accountability. This week’s favourite however would have to go to the defendant who asserted that; “There was no way, your honour, that I killed that girl, because I was off my trolley buying more drugs at the time.”

Blinding. I’m thinking of trying this on my husband; “No, I had absolutely nothing to do with breaking your drill bit while trying a bit of DIY at home because I was having sex with the pizza boy at the time.” I’m not liking my chances with this one and I suppose the first demeanour must be sufficiently more appalling than the excuse in order to justify the logic. However the fact that he thought this would be a legitimate alibi in the first place, suggests a level of everyday criminality so deeply entrenched and pervasive as to be entirely foreign to most people. He wasn’t just living in an almost permanently chemically altered state, he was from a whole other planet.

Law and order is emerging as the chief concern of the vast majority of the voting public this election and various parties are offering a lolly scramble of more policemen, tougher sentencing and inevitably, yet more jails, but a crack down on ‘law and order’ is not going to help the people (or their victims) who have spent years living in an entirely lawless and disordered world. What are we asking for when we say we want a heavier hand with ‘law and order’ and who do we expect to enforce it? The police are in the unenviable (and often life-threatening) position of dealing with people whose moral compass is in a Bermuda Triangle of drugs, booze and firearms who are a danger to themselves and everyone else.

When faced with a rise in crime and lawlessness, culminating in violent terrorist acts, the citizens of Argentina took to the streets in the ‘70’s and begged the government for a crackdown on law and order. They got it. They also got 20 years of a military police force who later became the front soldiers in the ‘Dirty War’ against its own citizens. While ordinary garden variety muggings, rapes and shootings disappeared from the streets, the armed military went about systematically ‘dealing with’ any form of opposition they encountered.

I feel sorry for the policeman who had to make the call to shoot the woman in Whangarei, but he was only acting on policy and procedure, set by government and in the end, initiated by what the public wants.

‘Be careful what you wish for’ the saying goes but especially applies to such an ephemeral idea as ‘law and order’. When we ask for ‘more law and order’ in the land, are we really asking for a permanently armed police force equipped with the power and the authority to deal with this growing criminal underclass? And is ‘dealing with’ code for ‘just taking them out’? It seems so.

There has been little questioning of the need to shoot dead a woman here in Whangarei, so deranged that she thought she could point a gun at police with impunity. I would have thought that such a highly trained team as the armed defenders squad would have been able to aim somewhere other than her chest in order to disarm her. But do we really expect the police to have to deal with all the fall out of a growing social problem?

We all know that something has to be done about the invasive hold P is gaining over our community but what? And by whom? If that same policeman were to ask me what I was doing on a personal or community level to help restore ‘law and order’ I don’t know what I could tell him. I guess I’m running out of excuses.

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