Police Maintain Routine Sexism
From a correspondent; we changed place names to respect privacy:
I picked up a hitch-hiker today even though he had no backpack. He told me his essential reason for needing to hitchhike and I encouraged him to share the rest of his story. I have changed the locations to respect privacy, but nothing else.
He had packed in his job in Auckland to move with his girlfriend to Tokoroa where her mother lived. His employer valued him and said he would keep the job open for him for a while in case he wanted to return. Within a short time he found the situation in Tokoroa wasn’t working out. He hadn’t found employment, his girlfriend’s mental health problems were aroused by the move and economic reality, and he found that he was valued mainly for his good car and being a chauffeur for his girlfriend’s and her mother’s frequent transport needs. His car was his only significant asset and his pride and joy.
When he talked to his girlfriend about feeling unhappy and regretting the move, she reacted badly and they argued and raised voices. She then threw a cup at him which missed, then picked up a heavy floor ornament and attempted to assault him wit it. He tried to take the weapon from her and they wrestled over it. She fell over unhurt and he walked away intending to leave the house to let things settle. She phoned police and alleged that he pushed her before she picked up the weapon. Police arrived and, although her account didn’t even make sense to him, they issued him with a ‘Police Safety Order’ requiring him to leave his home for 2 days. He was given only a few minutes to fetch toiletries and clothes for his period of exile. He departed fearing arrest and prosecution based on her false account but when he had settled emotionally realized he had no friends in Tokoroa and no money. He had a full tank of petrol because of an arrangement in which he was going to drive his girlfriend’s mother to a hospital appointment at Waikato Hospital the next day. He decided that his best option was to drive back to Auckland where he could stay for a time with friends and return to his job. He took the risk of phoning his girlfriend to try to arrange collection of his remaining possessions. She apologized for phoning the police, said she was struggling to deal with her mental health issues and needed his support. She convinced him to return, reminding him also of his commitment to drive her mother to Waikato.
He returned to the home and things were ok. However, she woke next morning in an irritable mood complaining that he had moved around in his sleep and woken her in the night. He drove her and her mother to Waikato the next day. While they waited in the car for her mother to complete her consultation, the girlfriend started on at him about waking her during the night. Other unresolved issues arose and they argued again. He felt one moment concerned about her degree of irrationality and another moment hurt and offended that she was finding fault with him despite his generosity in driving her mother. He informed her that he would go back to his previous plan to return to Auckland. She then phoned the police and complained that he was breaching his ‘safety order’.
Waikato Police arrived and arrested him, taking him back to the station for interview. They asked for his car keys so that the girlfriend and her mother could drive his car to the police station after the mother’s appointment was over, following which they would need to catch a bus or find some other way back to Tokoroa. He objected to this, not trusting his girlfriend to have his car and knowing that her mother was not an experienced driver. Police insisted their plan was the only fair option and assured him that a police car would follow the women when they drove to the station. My passenger admitted that he cried in realizing that his car would be in his girlfriend’s possession according to the police’s insistence.
When his interviews at the station came to an end police informed him he wouldn’t be charged for breaching the ‘safety order’ this time (there was no allegation of anything else) but they issued him with another 2-day ‘safety order’. They then informed him that they had let his girlfriend and her mother take his car back to Tokoroa. The women had agreed to pack up his things and leave them in his car for him to collect.
My passenger then waited for police to confirm the women had arrived home and were putting his possessions in the car. However, they claimed that they couldn’t lift the boxes containing his things. Police were unhelpful and suggested he would have to wait until the ‘safety order’ expired then arrange to go and pack up his own things.
He then hitch-hiked back to Tokoroa, leading to the crossing of our paths. He appeared to be genuinely worried about his car being in his girlfriend’s care. He had decided to ask Tokoroa Police if they would accompany him to collect his car and possibly his possessions, but he didn’t know whether they would agree. He had no money and his car was his only accommodation until he could get to Auckland.
I told him that I saw the whole incident as unacceptable sexism by police and I offered to help him prepare a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Authority. He was reluctant, just wanting to get back to Auckland and leave this nightmare behind. I dropped him off with my phone number in case he chose to proceed with a complaint, and I also offered to put him up for a night if he ended up being left stranded without his car that day. I didn’t hear from him so I hope he retrieved his car and possessions ok. Unfortunately, it was as likely that he would instead succumb again to his girlfriend’s charms, or that he would find his car damaged, missing or seized as ‘relationship property.