This is what passes as humour in NZ Police stations. It was published on the NZ Police Association website in September 2012…


A North Island police station received this question from a resident through the feedback section of a local Police website:

“I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually harass people and get away with it?”

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In response, a sergeant posted this reply:

First of all, let me tell you this … it’s not easy. In the Palmerston North and rural area we average one cop for every 505 people. Only about 60 per cent of those cops are on general duty (or what you might refer to as “general patrols”) where we do most of our harassing.

The rest are in non-harassing units that do not allow them contact with the day to day innocents. At any given moment, only one-fifth of the 60 per cent of general patrols are on duty and available for harassing people while the rest are off duty. So, roughly, one cop is responsible for harassing about 6000 residents.

When you toss in the commercial business and tourist locations that attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where a single cop is responsible for harassing 15,000 or more people a day.

Now, your average eight-hour shift runs 28,800 seconds long. This gives a cop two-thirds of a second to harass a person, and then only another third of a second to drink a Massey iced coffee AND then find a new person to harass. This is not an easy task. To be honest, most cops are not up to the challenge day in and day out. It is just too tiring. What we do is utilise some tools to help us narrow down those people we can realistically harass.

PHONE: People will call us up and point out things that cause us to focus on a person for special harassment. “My neighbour is beating his wife” is a code phrase used often. This means we’ll come out and give somebody some special harassment. Another popular one is, “There’s a guy breaking into a house.” The harassment team is then put into action.

CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars with no insurance or drivers with no licences and the like. It’s lots of fun when you pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light. Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they have drugs in the car, they are drunk, or have an outstanding warrant on file.

LAWS: When we don’t have phone or cars, and have nothing better to do, there are actually books that give us ideas for reasons to harass folks. They are called “statutes”. These include the Crimes Act, Summary Offences Act, Land Transport Act and a whole bunch of others… They spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess with people. After you read the law, you can just drive around for a while until you find someone violating one of these listed offences and harass them. Just last week I saw a guy trying to steal a car. Well, the book says that’s not allowed. That meant I had permission to harass this guy.

It is a really cool system that we have set up, and it works pretty well. We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we get away with it. Why? Because, for the good citizens who pay the tab, we try to keep the streets safe for them, and they pay us to “harass” some people.

Next time you are in Palmerston North, give me the old “single finger wave”. That’s another one of those codes. It means, “You can harass me.” It’s one of our favourites.


  1. Martyn, I think this has gone over your head. The policeman is using sarcasm to imply that most people who complain about being harassed are either breaking criminal or traffic laws. He’s not actually being serious about the police being dedicated to harassment.

    I hope that clears things up.

  2. Like Obama’s joking about drone strikes on boys who might date his daughters this is quite funny until one becomes aware of the underlying truth of some police being over-zealous in their work or in Obama’s case killing innocent people. Unfortunately the poor behaviour of some police creates prejudice against them all and in the long run it is counter productive to an effective police force in our community.

  3. Full credit to the officer in question. That was genuinely funny.

    Just like any sub-section of society, there are good people with nothing but the best of intentions, and then there are dicks who abuse their authority for shits and giggles. The police are not exempt.

    • No. It isn’t funny.

      Ask anyone who has been on the end of police harassment and maleficence.

      Yes, they (police) are a mixed bag, majority have good intentions but not all.

      That still doesn’t make it funny.

      • Well, I’m not about to argue with you over what constitutes ‘funny’ because, like a lot of things in life, humour is subjective.

        I’ve had both good and bad experiences with the police, and I have family members who are serving officers, and what they have to say about frontline policing is quite enlightening.

        When you’re forced to deal with drunks, wife-beaters, juvenile delinquents, drug dealers, rapists and violent recidivist offenders on a daily basis, some of whom love nothing more than to repeatedly claim they’re the victims of police harassment/brutality simply because they’ve once again been apprehended while breaking the law, I suspect you become a little world-weary.

        A bit like this sergeant, whose sardonic, eye-rolling response to what was perhaps a genuine query was obviously misguided, if not entirely understandable. I imagine similar frustrations are felt by anyone working in hospitality, retail or any sort of call centre. Hell is other people — more so if they’re attempting to knife you in the kidneys or stamp on your face.

        What I personally find puzzling, is the tendency for some on the left to imply that the police force is infested with vicious, jack-booted stormtroopers who would bludgeon your granny to death and devour your first-born if only they thought they could get away with it. Hyperbole and mass generalisations are easy and occasionally amusing, but not terribly useful for the purposes of intelligent discourse.

        Having said that, perhaps I just have a warped sense of humour.

        • Leave drug dealers out of it. Selling drugs to people who want to buy them is not a crime in any rational definition of the term, and should not be illegal. However, it provides police with an excellent opportunity to abuse their powers.

  4. When it comes to cars, it appears a criterion to harass someone is simply when one has an older vehicle, and especially around the holiday period.

    Reminds me of a story recently, an unemployed guy was pulled over, the car was relicensed with a WoF, his license was in order, no drinking, drugs, or speeding. The impression he got was just because his vehicle was old he was fair game. Relished the thought the pig made a complete arse of himself.

    Considering poorer folk are likely to own an old bomb, therefore it appears being poor is a criterion for harassment. Not all older vehicles and their drivers are illegal, so the prejudice is sheer garbage.

    Lets not forget race as a criterion for harassment as well.

    Kudos to Martyn for pointing this out like your other criticisms of the police. Better to criticise and hold accountable rather than blindly worshipping and indulging in romanticised notions of authority.

  5. Here is the NZ Police Oath new officers take…

    “I, [name], swear that I will faithfully and diligently serve Her (or His) Majesty [specify the name of the reigning Sovereign], Queen (or King) of New Zealand, her (or his) heirs and successors, without favour or affection, malice or ill-will. While a constable I will, to the best of my power, keep the peace and prevent offences against the peace, and will, to the best of my skill and knowledge, perform all the duties of the office of constable according to law. So help me God.”

    Here is what their oath should look like…

    I (name) will faithfully and diligently serve the people of NZ.
    I will protect the peace, serve my community and respect the public and the rights of individual citizens in accordance with the Bill of Rights and the Treaty of Waitangi.

  6. Whatever the sarcastic humour, it does not address the questions of why it is so hard to get police assistance when you are the victim of theft, burglary or vandalism. Too much like hard work perhaps? I would be interested in what this police sergeant had to say about that.

  7. Yep its hilarious. It’s very clever, very clever indeed.For once I sympathise in a sense with where some of these good honest cops are coming from. He should have typed it up and sent it to some of his mates in the office as a laugh.

    He shouldn’t have posted it though… he showed contempt for the person who raised the question.

    But just imagine a Health professional responding on a DHB website in the same manner…
    Or a WINZ officer, or CYFS,or Education, or the IRD, or, MBIE, or DOC, or any other fucking civil servant in any other government department???

    It just wouldn’t happen- because they would probably be fired.

    So again- the real question should have been:

    “I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually show contempt for the normal standards of professional behaviour expected of all other civil servants, and get away with it?”

  8. Just like it’s ingrained in right wing thinking that they must attack anything ‘green’ or that says ‘welfare’, Martins response to this shows his own prejudices.

    We have one of if not the best police forces in the world and I have lived in a few different countries as well as traveled extensively. This light hearted response to someone attacking them is part of the reason why.

    Get over it and get over yourself.

  9. Good point you have raised here Martyn,

    With a figurehead of a lying PM we see every day it is no wonder why the folks in the thin blue line will loose their way as they try to keep some civility over an errant community run by a mob of gangsters who are the Government telling the police to do what I say not as I do.

    We have moved well away from a civil society with role model Politician’s, now who seem to always be getting caught and fired for lying and doing unlawful acts, so the police are now as confused as the rest of our sick society.

    We need a change of government to a caring compassionate and respectful Governance to reverse the corruption and crumbling society we now live amongst.

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