Nic Haralambous expressed a view I have heard expressed a couple times about the recent arrests by the Metro police for minor traffic offences which I find problematic. Before I get into the reasons I want to qualify my post by saying that I agree with policies like the “broken windows” and zero tolerance policies (pretty much the same thing actually) and I see these policies as important tools in crime fighting.

There are two problems with the way the Metro cops handled this whole thing. The first is that not only is arresting someone for crossing a solid line excessive (rather increase the fines to a higher figure) but the Metro don’t treat all offenders alike. Taxi drivers tend to do whatever they want (I have heard that many Metro cops own taxis and certainly wouldn’t interfere in their side businesses by arresting their drivers).

The second problem is that a High Court judge ordered the release of those people who were arrested and detained recently. This implies that the judge felt the arrests were not warranted. When the Metro cops received the order to release these people, they laughed at the order and refused. It took a bench issued warrant for the arrest of two senior Metro officers before these people were released. This is the biggest concern because it demonstrates a total lack of respect for the judiciary. This seems to be common in the executive branch of government and is another sign of the lack of respect for the rule of law.

Supporting this sort of behaviour has nothing to do with respect for the law and is all about support for institutionalised and State sponsored bullying. Sure, fix severe and proportionate penalties for various offences and then enforce them but to detain people for these sorts of offences immediately oversteps the line. A far more appropriate penalty would be a harsh fine (coupled with proper enforcement if the offender defaults) or even a summons to appear in court and then risk imprisonment if found guilty. Simply locking up motorists on the spot (especially where innocents like children are endangered) sounds too much like the bad old days we have been working so hard to escape.

A return to torture and mysterious deaths in police custody is not far behind public support for this sort of behaviour. As responsible citizens who respect the law and the Bill of Rights, we should be exceptionally sensitive to what happened under the previous regime and we should be speaking up against this sort of police action, not gleefully supporting it. We are walking a fine line in this country, which is looking more and more like a dramatisation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I highly recommend that you read it if you haven’t already.

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