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.