Heather du Plessis-Allan: Simon Bridges is right to call out Andrew Coster

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Feb 2021, 4:13PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Simon Bridges is right to call out Andrew Coster

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Wed, 24 Feb 2021, 4:13PM

Simon Bridges is copping it for calling the new Police Commissioner a ‘wokester’. 

Bridges’ critics argue that politicians shouldn’t attack neutral public servants. But Bridges’ on the mark, and the Commissioner is anything but neutral so deserves being called out. 

Since coming into the job, Andrew Coster has given us plenty of reasons to think he’s soft on lawlessness. 

Just two examples: 

  • He tolerated the iwi-led checkpoints for weeks despite the fact that they were unlawful. 
  • He banned his frontline staff from chasing crims in what appears like most circumstances but doesn’t seem to have given them other tools to actually apprehend the law breakers, like that horde of bikies who raced through Auckland on Waitangi Day. 

I don’t mind him trying something different – especially when it comes to dangerous police pursuits which I personally can’t abide – but if ‘trying something different’ means tolerating law breaking and letting crooks get away with it, that doesn’t sound like he’s doing his job. He’s supposed to be a cop, not a social worker. 

Coster seems to realise he’s perceived as softly-softly on crime. That could explain why he’s suddenly rolling out announcements to create the impression he’s cracking down on gangs.  But if you ask more than one question, there’s no substance. 

The big Operation Tauwhiro crack down on gangs has no extra money or staff attached to. He can’t say if the crackdown on gang members’ gun licences will lead to any of them losing their permission to own firearms. 

And quite frankly, he opened himself up to attack from politicians. 

Coster runs interference for this government.  We saw it in action during the lockdown when he appeared before the epidemic select committee and defended the government.  That’s not the job of a public servant. But if a public servant wants to do that and wants to shield his political masters, then he turns himself into a political player and becomes fair game. 

So as far as I can see, Simon Bridges is right in his criticism of Andrew Coster, and justified in holding him to account.