Editorial: Taser use shows policy working

New figures showing how many times Western Bay police drew and fired Tasers since they became available demonstrate the current police policy is working.

Figures obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times and published in yesterday's edition show Bay police drew Tasers on 56 occasions and of these fired them just four times between March 22, 2010, and June 30 this year. In the same period, firearms were drawn 17 times but never fired.

The figures cap a year of major changes in police policy when it comes to officers carrying weapons.

Police Commissioner Peter Marshall last year signed off a $6 million project putting special lockable containers in all frontline police vehicles and introducing rules that more than half would carry firearms at all times.

The police chief also wanted Tasers in every frontline car.

Police were right to improve their access to weapons.

Policing today is much different to what it was 20 years ago and the safety of the public and officers is paramount.

But police also had to strike a balance. Mr Marshall and the Government got it right by avoiding the routine arming of every officer.

New Zealand is not at the stage where we need to take such a drastic step but it is good to know officers responding to dangerous situations will at least have them in their boots.

The police union says people Tasered were usually a threat to others. I have no doubt the four people who got Tasered in the Western Bay deserved it.

They always have the right to complain if they feel police were too heavy handed.

It must be difficult for officers dealing with dangerous and emotionally-charged criminals and having to make important decisions in a matter of seconds on whether to draw and fire weapons.

The Taser gives them a safer alternative to guns in situations where a firearm would not be suitable. Given the total number of incidents police deal with, these latest figures demonstrate our local officers have been careful and professional.

The public can have confidence in them when it comes to weapons.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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