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  • Phoebe Robertson

Cop Stop and Roll

PHOEBE ROBERTSON (she/her)


On May 8th, law enforcement utilised bulldozers to disperse a group of pro-Palestine demonstrators at Amsterdam University. As a result, 120 individuals were arrested and removed from the encampments. This event follows similar protests at over 40 universities in America, resulting in an estimated 2,000 arrests of pro-Palestine protestors on campus. 


In February, RNZ covered a story about police facing allegations of aggression during arrests at pro-Palestine protests in Christchurch. According to Palestine Solidarity Network secretary Neil Scott, "The police arrested seven people and pepper sprayed many, including senior citizens protesting peacefully." This was not the first instance of such actions, as seen in a video from November 2023 where a New Zealand officer rugby tackled a pro-Palestine protester into the footpath. Our governments are plainly willing to brutalise peaceful civilians. 


As protests continue to rise worldwide, it is crucial to be aware of your rights when dealing with the police in New Zealand. It is important to understand what they can and cannot legally do. 


If a police officer approaches you: 

First and foremost, confirm that they are an officer. If you are unsure, ask for their proof of identification. Then, ask why they’re talking to you. Are you being stopped or questioned? And most importantly, ask if you are under arrest. If not, you have the right to walk away from the conversation—the officer cannot legally detain you. 


When driving, you are required by law to provide your name, date of birth, phone number and address to the police officer upon request. You also need to tell them who owns the vehicle (even if you’ve taken your mum's car out for burnouts). 



Do I have to go with the police if they ask me to?

Only if they officially arrest you. And even if you say yes at first, you can still change your mind and leave at any time as long as you are not under arrest.


Similarly, the police are only required to inform you of your legal rights if you have been taken into custody or are being interrogated by an officer, and there is evidence indicating that you may have committed a crime.



When can the police search me? 

If you give them permission. You do not need to do this. If you have been placed under arrest. If they have a search warrant; if they have reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of illegal drugs or an offensive weapon; if you are in a public place with a liquor ban and they are searching for alcohol; if there is reason to believe you have evidence related to a serious crime with a potential prison sentence of 14 years or more; if you are in transit, such as at an airport or train station, and they have reason to suspect you may be carrying stolen or unlawfully obtained property. 



If I am arrested, what information will they ask for?

Your name, date of birth, occupation and address. If you refuse to provide this information and are found guilty, you could face a fine of up to $5000 or imprisonment for three months. So it’s not really worth it. Otherwise, you have the right to remain silent. Lying to the police is also a crime, with a max prison sentence of three years. Again, the only legal information you have to provide to them is your name, date of birth, occupation and address. 


You must also let the police take:

  • your fingerprints

  • your photo

  • blood samples or samples from your mouth—if they suspect intoxication.


When arrested you have the right to talk to a lawyer privately, without having to wait. You also have the right to: not make a statement, to be told by officers why you are being questioned, detained, or arrested. You have the right to be treated humanely and be brought before a court or tribunal as soon as possible. If in doubt, remain silent until you have talked to a lawyer.

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