The Guardian December 6, 2000


TAKING ISSUE with Nathan Barnes:
Ryan's real agenda: privatised policing

A Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service, which went on for more 
than two years and ended in 1996, revealed endemic corruption  corruption 
which had flourished under both Liberal and Labor Governments for many 
years. While this would not have surprised most people, the then newly 
elected Carr Labor Government's "solution" was somewhat curious; the 
appointment from the London police of Peter Ryan as Police 
Commissioner.

Ryan was handed absolute power to control all appointments, transfers and 
removals in the Force through the government's Police Legislation Further 
Amendment Bill.

The Bill also took away the right of police officers to appeal against 
their dismissal by the Commissioner.

This sparked a mass protest of 3,000 police officers and supporters outside 
Parliament House in November of that year, an action which Ryan condemned 
as "absolute raw, 1960s-style trade unionism".

But it soon became clear that the Royal Commission and the appointment of 
Ryan would be used as the springboard for the Carr Government's law and 
order agenda to whip up public concern over crime and introduce increased 
police powers and draconian new laws.

New police powers aimed at young people were introduced in 1998. Bob Carr 
ushered them in with the public announcement that "police will be given 
sweeping new powers to deal with gangs and knife-wielding thugs".

The new powers allowed police to stop, body search, search the possessions 
of and detain anyone who they have a "reasonable suspicion" may commit a 
crime. Refusal to comply is itself an offence, as is refusal to supply name 
and address.

There is also the "three is a crowd" law, allowing police to hound young 
people from one area to another on the pretext of breaking up a crowd or 
gang.

Also that year, playing on people's fear of violent crime  which 
statistics show was not and is not on the increase  the Carr Government 
introduced legislation allowing householders to legally use force, 
including guns and knives, against housebreakers.

This was a slightly altered version of a bill put earlier by Shooters' 
Party MP John Tingle.

Carr defended the legislation claiming it did not give householders "the 
right to be vigilantes", but the reality was a victory for the gun lobby.

Then there's zero tolerance policing, the all-encompassing right of police 
to arrest people in public places for a range of minor offences, including 
loitering, drunkenness and offensive language. 

The practice of this form of policing, which increases arrest rates and 
targets the poor, the homeless, Indigenous people and other minorities, is 
already under way in NSW.

So what happened to Ryan's big clean up? You'd reckon that after a Royal 
Commission and four years he would have rooted out heaps of corruption. Or 
does the highest paid public servant in Australia in fact have another 
brief altogether, such as streamlining, outsourcing and privatising 
policing?

He has a close relationship with the private security industry, even having 
regular reports in Security Insider the journal of the private 
security umbrella group, the Australian Security Industry Association.

In his reports he informs these transnational corporations of the current 
state of play in the integration of state and private policing.

In the issue of January 1999, for example, he said that reducing crime and 
making the streets safe is a key priority of the NSW Police Service, but 
that they can't do this all by themselves.

"Like police, security officers work towards protecting people and property 
and ensuring a safe society", said Ryan. "The very nature of our roles in 
the community requires a close working relationship between both groups."

He talked up the angle of working "in partnerships with organisations and 
individuals across the community", saying "the security industry must be a 
key player in this community partnership".

Fast forward to November 2000, and Ryan's grand plan for cutting back the 
role of the Police Service is given a piecemeal public airing.

According to this blueprint police haven't got the resources to deal with 
corporate crime, white collar theft and company fraud. Investigation of 
these misdemeanors should be left to private security operators.

Similarly, noise complaints, from the likes of car alarms and parties, 
should be handed over to local councils.

More civilians should be replacing police in office work and more police 
stations should be closed and sold, with staff consolidated into super-
stations.

Ryan also wants liquor licence applications to be handled by the Department 
of Gaming and Racing, the escort of mental patients to go to the Department 
of Health, the Police Assistance Line, red light cameras and blood sampling 
to be outsourced and the inspection of firearm safes to be done by firearms 
dealers.

Strangely for a supposed anti-corruption campaigner, Ryan wants less 
monitoring and scrutiny of police, beginning with the immediate termination 
of a Police Integrity Commission-initiated audit into his own changes.

Sure, the police are an arm of the state to be used against the people at 
the whim of governments, and the corruption problem is systemic, but where 
Ryan's taking things is a backward step into the world of private security 
enforcing corporate rule and with no public accountability whatever.

When it's all boiled down, what is Ryan anyway other than one more 
privatising, job cutting hatchet man, recruited by government to do a job 
on a public service.

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