Crime researcher unfit to research crime

A story getting a lot of attention today is that of Dr Jarrod Gilbert, a crime researcher who says the police have banned him from receiving basic crime data because he researched gangs.

UPDATE: Alan W responds well in the comment thread below:

They are not entitled to give him a hard time. Data is data. Once it is in public everyone can interpret it. If Gilbert misinterprets it, others can critique or correct him. That is how research works. The cops are totally out of line here.

Gilbert’s NZ Herald column: Dr Jarrod Gilbert: The police have deemed me unfit to undertake crime research because I know criminals

I’ve been deemed by the police to be unfit to conduct research – I’ve been banned from accessing basic and uncontroversial police data. As an academic who studies crime, this is rather crippling. It’s also a staggering abuse of power.

The police have deemed me unfit because of my “association with gangs”. This association won’t surprise many people: I did New Zealand’s largest ever study of gangs. It was long, exhausting and sometimes dangerous work, but it was worth it. The research culminated in an award-winning book, and academic publications all around the world.

If so this does seem a silly decision of the Police. Very silly.

The degree of control the police sought over research findings and publications was more than trifling. The research contracts demand that a draft report be provided to police. If the results are deemed to be “negative” then the police will seek to “improve its outcomes”. Both the intent and the language would have impressed George Orwell.

Researchers unprepared to yield and make changes face a clause stating the police “retain the sole right to veto any findings from release”. In other words, if an academic study said something the police didn’t like – or heaven forbid was in any way critical of the police – then the police could stop it being published.

These demands were supported by threats. The contracts state that police will “blacklist” the researchers and “any organisations connected to the project … from access to any further police resources” if they don’t abide by police wishes.

The implication is this: Do it as we want it, and release findings that we don’t object to, and you can get police data. If not, find another occupation. I have spoken to a number of researchers who have had terrible experiences with this process but live in fear of information being cut off. They don’t complain. They feel they can’t.

A crime researcher has to be able to be critical if he feels that’s what his research justifies, without being blocked from accessing data required for research.

Stuff reports that the police have said they will reconsider their decision.

Strategy deputy chief executive Mark Evans said all academics seeking police data sign a research agreement, which set out police expectations including that research was accurate, balanced and constructive.

The applications went through a “robust process” to ensure they had “benefits for police”, were of good standard, met privacy obligations and the police time required to process them was “feasible”, Evans said.

If the police thinks research won’t benefit them can block research data from being used? That sounds crappy – they shouldn’t be prejudging the value of research before it’s been done.

Police could prevent further access to police resources if a researcher breached the agreement, he said.

That’s fair enough – as long as the conditions are fair enough.


Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th November 2015

    Arrogant twots. Research should benefit NZ and knowledge generally, not the police.

    • Mike C

       /  25th November 2015

      Perhaps the Police suspect he has become too emotionally involved with some Gang Members … and that Dr Gilbert has lost his ability to be unbiased.

      The exact same sort of thing happens with undercover cops and kidnap victims 🙂

      • kiwi guy

         /  25th November 2015

        Yep, its called Stockholm Syndrome.

        I toook a quick squiz at Mr Gilbert’s blog and there is definitely a sentimental affectionate tone in his treatment of gangs in his articles eg:

        “At one time the Epitaph Riders were perhaps the staunchest and most respected outlaw club in New Zealand”

        “…their remarkable war with the Devils Henchmen.”

        “…at the time that they held a reputation as among the country’s staunchest, and consequently one of the most respected, groups within the biker – and indeed the entire gang – community. In biker parlance, they were class.”

        Also the sociology field SCREAMS Cultural Marxism, just look at all the flaky Advocacy Research that Progressives use to push their ideological agenda on Western society.

        I think the police are giving him a hard time as a result.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  25th November 2015

          They are not entitled to give him a hard time. Data is data. Once it is in public everyone can interpret it. If Gilbert misinterprets it, others can critique or correct him. That is how research works. The cops are totally out of line here.

        • oldmantalking

           /  25th November 2015

          KG, there is nothing sentimental or affectionate about the articles of Mr Gilberts that you have referenced. The author is stating fact, as anyone who was in or near the scene at the time will confirm.

      • Jeeves

         /  26th November 2015

        That’s not their call, Mike C.
        Nor is it a call that they are qualified to make.
        Nor is their opinion something we should be interested in.

        The problem with the Police, and their organisational culture, is that they have become detached from their core business.
        They’ve started having opinions about things, and about how things should be done.

        They, like the IRD, WINZ, DHBs etc are a statutory body with precise operational policy frameworks within which they are expected to conduct themselves.

        If a desk jockey in WINZ threw you to the floor, or a nurse, or a clerk at the IRD- and then simply said “I thought she was threatening me” they would be sacked. As simple as that.

        People making excuses that ‘they are on the front line’ so therefore all is excused is food to their inevitable and inexorable slide towards totalitarianism if they are not kept in check.

        They need to stay the fuck out of social engineering and get back to crime prevention and crime resolution.

        They are not the moral arbiters of modern life and nor should they be.

        If you don’t agree- try challenging one of them one day.

    • Pete Kane

       /  25th November 2015

      Alan, without giving up all my ‘reddish’ credentials, given the utter mayhem at every level (including cost) these creatures cause (and their own families as first victims) I would have thought any evidence, ideas, toughs etc of how to rid this scourge would be welcome.

      • oldmantalking

         /  25th November 2015

        Your absolutely right, then there is the problem of what do we do with the gangs.

    • What I found odd is that they gave him his file as requested, but heavily redacted. That is almost seemingly taking the piss.

  2. Pete Kane

     /  25th November 2015

    toughs – thoughts (I’m suing spell check)

  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th November 2015

    Incidentally, this behaviour by the police is not new. Since for ever they have figured as the worst offenders in not complying with the OIA in the Ombudsman’s annual reports.

    • Gotta say I have tremendous respect for the average frontline police person, they deal with almost every death that occurs, a good many scumbags (who certainly exist) and many horrendous situations.
      Gilbert’s statements are worrying, with serious implications for higher up the force.
      ” … working for a large government agency wanting to investigate alcohol-related harms. Part of this project required some basic crime data from the police. It was then that I discovered the lengths police are going to to control research”.
      I admit I’m naive but I don’t know why such “basic crime data” isn’t with Statistics NZ?
      Police is a govt agency. Another large government agency wanted the data for “part of this project”. To me all this just doesn’t make sense. Consequently, the words that stand out like flashing neon signs for me are “alcohol-related harms”.
      Long time since I studied Sociology 101 but I reckon Gilbert’s blog is fairly standard sociology language, which isn’t always dry and purely scientific. Indeed, it can’t be so far as I recall. ” Social researchers draw upon a variety of qualitative and quantitative techniques” – Wikipedia.


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