Monday, 16 April 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: A Simple Suggestion For The Police

_McGrath001Dr Richard McGrath has been driving around. Or trying to.

Now, I don't want to rain on anyone's picnic. The news about the Easter road toll of zero was welcome indeed.

But even the most excitable statistician would be able to talk to you soberly about this result being inside the normal curve.  And my recent experience of road policing tells me a rethink at Police National HQ is urgently required.

Because my anger at motorists’ treatment over the Easter period is only now abating.

On the Thursday before Good Friday I was heading southeast through Sanson when my journey was interrupted. This was peak holiday driving time at the place where State Highways 1 and 3 join briefly before going their separate ways in the middle of Bulls.

I was not even inside the 50km/hr built-up area when I had to slow to join a traffic jam running the length of the town. Yes, the police had decided to put the kibosh on everyone’s holiday plans.

I was drafted into the left of two lanes, the right-hand lane being cars that were waved through. I stopped dead about twenty metres from where a line of policemen stood waiting. After five seconds of increasingly frantic waving from one of the police officers, I took my foot off the brake pedal and inched ever so slowly toward a policeman, who when I got to where he was standing demanded (didn't ask nicely, no 'sir' or 'please', just barked out an order) I speak into his alcohol sniffer. Which, like an obedient citizen, I did—despite a seething resentment at once again being detained without being in any way suspected of criminal activity.

I noticed half a dozen of his fellow officers milling about on the other side of the road like grinning idiots. A very cost-effective use of taxpayer money.

My negative result on their sniffer was no surprise: it was only 5.45 p.m. The perfect time to hold up holiday traffic with minimal chance of finding drunks. What really incensed me though, was the order (not a request, note, but an order) to wind down the front passenger window of my vehicle to receive an unsolicited package. This turned out to be some taxpayer-funded propaganda on road safety, thrown onto the front seat of my car. I was then told to move on. I drove forward to merge with the right lane of other traffic, whereupon I was blinded by the afternoon sun shining straight down the main street of Sanson and almost ran into a truck, veering left with inches to spare.

At that point I decided to stop my car and see what happened. It was fairly amusing to watch how animated the policeman who had sniffed me became, waving me hysterically away like he was shooing away a swarm of wasps. Eventually I resumed my journey back to Masterton, wondering how many other motorists these idiots had pissed off that evening. The line of cars heading northwest stopped cars joining from the State Highway One, and extended into the 100 km/hr road to Palmerston North—offering the perfect opportunity for a high-speed tail-end collision.

You can see how well this had been thought through by someone.

I would like to make a simple suggestion at this point: that from this time onward any motorists testing negative with sniffer devices be handed, immediately, five dollars in cash. I can tell you it would compensate for the inconvenience and risk imposed on motorists by these intrusive and time-wasting impositions. And it might help restore some of the goodwill lost by these ridiculous and frankly dangerous road blocks.

Now I am not anti-police. As a libertarian I realise they are one of the few legitimate arms of government. On top of that, I have worked twenty-five years as a police medical officer (or 'pig doctor' as one or two of the customers I have met at the local police station have christened me). But something needs to be done to rescue the credibility of our police force. They need to be investigating criminals and not harassing (and alienating) innocent sober motorists. I don't think the police realise how destructive of goodwill their road blocks are, even to those who work with them and generally support the great work that the vast majority of police officers do.

And now I have another suggestion for you. Those travelling between Wanganui and Wellington who want to avoid the notorious Sanson speed camera:  after passing the Ohakea Air Base (and before hitting Sanson) take a right at Fagan Rd, left into Speedy Rd, and right onto State Highway One. And Bob will be your mother's brother.

P.S. Now that my whinge is over, here are two great articles, first, the best short summary of Objectivism I've seen, written by Craig Biddle (not sure if subscription is required, but it would be money well spent); and second, 100 common objections to libertarianism well refuted.

See you next time!
Doc McGrath


  1. You inspired me Richard. At the next roadblock I will play with the cops a little.

    I am wondering, what would have happened if you refused to take hold of the compulsory pamflet. Would that be littering?

    ($@#$%@ captcha !! It takes 3 times as much time to get that right than it is to write a comment. Grrrr )

  2. Hal Incandenza16 Apr 2012, 10:23:00

    "But even the most excitable statistician would be able to talk to you soberly about this result being inside the normal curve."

    But it's waaaay better evidence of efficacy than hysterical non-verifiable, one-sided, subjective anecdotes eh?

  3. I call it policing by numbers.

    No imagination,planning or effort other than road block,big show. At the end of it very little to show except that it's been done and the figures will show that somewhere.

    Policing should be targeted. They know who the problem cases and recidivists are. Go get em.

  4. Richard, are you keeping an eye on the Australian "Helmetfreedom" site you linked before? They've got some beauty ads on TV over here.


  5. @Hal: Bare statistics don't tell the reader anything about ethics and civil rights, and whether these were trampled along the way.

  6. @Warwick: I will check the Helmet Freedom website out. And I note the skateboarder who died at ther weekend was wearing a safety helmet.


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