Christmas is coming

So work is slowing down, and I have had to go early (before the big Xmas/NY shutdown) to the doctor to get a repeat on the latest bout of Champix. (I lack the strength of character that some have to desist unassisted).

During the long wait (time still crying out to be killed by a cigarette or two) there was a bit of excitement. In a momentary flash of red and blue lights and a wail of siren, an unmarked police car made a sudden 3-point turn to the bus stop just outside the Klinik. Next thing, as I wandered out to do some shopping to fill up the wait, I saw two plain-clothed officers. They had a bearded bloke sitting on the curb at the back of the car. He had his shoes off and was taking off his socks. The contents of his pockets (I supposed) – phone, cigarettes, lighter etc – were spread out on top of the back of the car. One of the policemen asked him “So where have you been staying?” The other (detective, I suppose) was talking into his radio or phone.

I didn’t stop to hear if the bloke on the ground answered the question.

I went into a takeaway food bar. It’s never a pleasant sight when someone is arrested and I think there is an instinctive reaction against the inevitable bullying it entails. Sympathy was running high for the man sitting on the curb, though of course no-one had any idea who he was or what he was being taken in for. “What did they get him for?” someone asked. Another answered “For walking the wrong way.” Someone else said: “They should take him somewhere. The [nearby] hotel would have a room somewhere. They shouldn’t just expose him to public humiliation like that.”

FWIW, my view is that, if an arrest is to be made, the police need to secure the arrested person and identify him. Before they put him in a car or take him anywhere they need to check that he has nothing dangerous on his person. If they are going to arrest him, they can then keep his effects and, for example, his phone. All of that has to be done straight away. Questioning other than to determine his identity is probably inappropriate and if you are arrested or for that matter having any interaction with police it is not in your interests to engage in small talk at all. Police often rely on this to get informal admissions which may not later be forthcoming (or to make a few up of their own). Once it is decided to take someone into custody such public exposure should come to an end.

By the time I got back from the supermarket it was all over, at least so far as any street drama was concerned.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the following headline in today’s SMH: Bungle leads to massive drug haul. The story reported that police had seized more than 300kg of pseudoephedrine “from a syndicate that lost track of the shipping containers they were hidden in.”

The drugs, which were seized by the NSW Drug Squad this morning at 12 locations across NSW, were packed into metal tubes and hidden in the containers’ frames, police said.

But investigators believe the syndicate importing the drugs lost track of some of the containers.

The containers were emptied and their contents – including the drugs [my note after reading the press release: this is a little misleading – the containers were empty and the concealed drugs were the only relevant contents] – were sold to legal businesses across the state, police said.

I’m assuming (since it is said to have been seized from the syndicate) that the pseudoephedrine the police have seized is the pseudoephedrine which was not lost track of. I may be wrong about that, given that the story does not refer to any arrests. (Update: press release here.)

If so, it sounds as though somebody has been unbelievably careless. I can only begin to imagine the extent of unbelief in certain quarters and how it might have been expressed.

I suppose the upside is that if you’ve recently taken delivery of a container which includes some metal tubes and get a severe head cold over Christmas, you may not need to find your driver’s licence and an open pharmacy to obtain quality symptomatic relief.

[An alternative hypothesis is that the “syndicate” had reason to believe that the game was up and so declined to pick up the drugs. Police do say that they acted on “information received” but it seems that this was after the containers had been emptied and dispersed.]

Further update, January: Police now say there were 54 containers in all. 26 were found at Padstow on December 22 and a 27th is still at large, as, apparently, are the offenders. Police say they expect to make arrests when the last container is found. It is hard to see why arrests depend on that. It now appears that the tip-off to police was only because someone who bought three of the containers reported to police that they appear to have been tampered with. The seized drugs also included ice and heroin. The claimed total street value is around $200 million.

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