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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 21, September 6, 1976.

On the Beat

On the Beat

While walking up Wadestown Road on my way to work on Tuesday, a police car cruised past me, did a U turn and stopped.

As I walked past, the cop wound down the window and asked me to come over. He then asked my my name and address. I was very surprised -I had done nothing wrong and wasn't even loitering.

I asked if I had to answer the questions and the cop said no. But he added that if I didn't they might think I had something to hide. I asked them why they wanted to know. One of them answered that if a robbery was to take place in the next hour or so they'd be able to ask me if I had seen anything suspicious, and that they liked to know what was happening in their area.

I told them that I thought it was in their line of duty to find information after a robbery, but it definitely wasn't in their line of duty to keep tabs on everyone before they have breached the law.

The situation was ominous indeed. The policeman then made explicit what he had already implied. He said, as if trying to talk common sense with me, that I had long hair and looked scruffy and that for all they knew I could be unemployed, without money, and about to commit a robbery. He said they interviewed certain types of people because they knew they were more likely to commit crimes than others, and as though he was being completely frank about his prejudices, he mentioned Maoris and Islanders.

I was perturbed in the utmost by this admission, and battered his head with various "But you can't'" and "what happened to impartiality", and "You have no right to impose your prejudices", and "the social consequences" and "this type of thing causes"..etc etc.

"All we want to know is your name and address and where you're going", said the policeman, and I said I refused to answer on principle. As I was leaving, one said that if I ever had any trouble, then not to come to the police.

This confrontation was a case of pure harrassment by the police. I had done nothing wrong at all and was only questioned because the policemen had prejudices which they acted upon; and these prejudices are large because I considered mayself to be tidy and business like, not in the least suspicious, striding off to my job like I was.

We are not quite a police state yet and this sort of behaviour needs to be publicised. If the police admit that they are "keeping tabs" on any and every person who they think could possibly commit a crime at some time, then perhaps the police state isn't far away.