No fog but very foggy

I deal with so many inspirational leaders on programmes, courses, workshops and at conferences. It’s empowering and invigorating. We use strength-based authentic development and have lots of fun that works. Occasionally, I’m struck by how poorly we are served still in some areas of leadership.

Sixteen-year-old Rawiri Wilson was killed when a marked police car hit him on State Highway One almost two years ago on 25 July 2009. It took two years for the Independent Police Conduct Authority to tell us that there was no unlawful conduct by the police. It took them only a few hours though, to tell us that it was incorrectly reported that it was a foggy night and the police officer should have had the car’s lights on high beam, in the fog.

When I read the news article, I thought that sounded odd too, driving in the fog with your lights on high beam, so I read the IPCA’s report.

Rawiri was 16 and apparently fooling around on the road, rather carelessly.

The police constable was, as it turns out, driving in clear but dark conditions with his lights on low beam. He had sent and received texts in the run up to the collision.

The IPCA took two years to tell us that a police officer who was probably texting, driving on a dark highway with his lights on low beam, didn’t do anything unlawful. They say it was not illegal to use a cellphone at the time. Well it’s not illegal to read a book while driving now, or should I say there is no specific section of the Transport Act that prohibits it, but it’s obviously careless driving, just as reading a text is. The IPCA also say that driving with your lights on low beam on a dark road is not the action of a prudent driver. The inability to hold a cellphone, steer and operate the high beam lever might have been a factor here. But that’s for a court to sort out isn’t it?

The IPCA says “The investigation has also established that Rawiri Wilson and his cousin were under the influence of alcohol and cannabis at the time, and were not mindful of risk or exercising caution as they walked on an unlit section of SH 1 at night.” So the IPCA stand on high with big proclamations about two children. But it makes “no recommendations” about a police constable where there must be prima facie evidence of careless driving.

Rawiri’s death is sad. A boy fooling around with drink and drugs in the wrong place. We’re told driving is a privilege and everybody should drive defensively, looking out for those less protected like runners (me included), children, the elderly and those with disabilities especially. We all have a responsibility on the roads to look after each other. I don’t reckon this police constable was anywhere near that standard and it’s something Rawiri’s whanau deserve to have properly tested.

Let the police constable stand in court and tell Rawiri’s mother that he wasn’t texting and it was a tragic mistake. He’ll get some closure and so will Mum.

There might not have been fog that July night in Northland. But there’s a lot of foggy thinking again with the IPCA. Tell me again why it exists? Are we protected and enhanced in any way by a bunch of retired cops (I’m not joking!) fumbling through a traffic file for two years to tell us this?

As leaders in our community they need to demonstrate to us that they expect the police to be role-models of behaviour, not wriggle out with back-room untested legal views. Standing for something is hard for those who’s only interest is self-interest. Aptly demonstrated by sitting on their hands for two years while Rawiri’s mother grieved, then spluttering loudly like an old man with phlegm when they were misreported!

I can’t think of any aspect of leadership that the IPCA demonstrates that helps the public. Self-serving bureaucracy with no purpose.

Being in Whakatane right now with a group of great leaders it’s so so stark the difference demonstrated by the IPCA. One day I hope outfits like it will find a new way with new leadership. Because there’s plenty of good people who could make a difference.

Stephen

So out of touch

This is the darkest week in our recent history. A favourite and much-loved city devastated with loss and destruction on an appalling scale. I feel pained and I am sure most Kiwis do. The international community has come to our aid with generous and unconditional support. It seems like the New South Wales Fire rescue were there almost as quickly as our people. It’s heart-warming.

Last week the Independent Police Conduct Authority released its report into the failure by the police to investigate child sex complaints. Is is just me, or is it that every time a significant report is realised by the IPCA they’ve already worked out with the police that the situation was “historical” and “new procedures have been put in place”? If that’s the case, what’s the point of the IPCA? I think that the police are careful and concerned enough to make appropriate changes without a bloated bureaucracy reminding them years later. If that wasn’t enough did you notice that they never even bothered to interview the policeman who was apparently at the centre of the allegations!  This is not the first time this has happened – they once told a complainant that they had reviewed all available evidence in the case. Turns out the IPCA hadn’t spoken to one single witness they had been told about.  The person concerned left soon after.

But that’s just the beginning. In this week of grief, sadness when even the most cynical will probably be holding fondly the work of our police and other services as they pick through the carnage that is Christchurch, the IPCA open their files:  this is the week that they decide it’s a good time to announce that they recommend the police should apologise to Tony Veitch for releasing material to the media. That’s right – our guardians of the police have the most astonishingly bad taste and irrelevant contribution to this dreadful week. Ignore for a moment the rights and wrongs of the Veitch case – that’s not the point here.

This is the week that all those involved in the Maori Party problems, the Limo replacements, welfare reform and other seemingly pressing problems, have been gracious and tactful enough to recognise that this is the time to reflect on our community in Christchurch. And support our boys and girls in blue.

Sometimes the moment is big enough to say that a failure in leadership is fatal. When leadership is so, so out of touch with the community it seeks to serve, it should go. And now.

So let’s show we care for Canterbury. I’m sure most of us do.

Stephen