Call to arm our police

By Morgan Tait

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Three serious incidents in Hawke's Bay on Christmas Eve where police officers were confronted with a gun, a metal bar and close to 100 out of control brawlers are adding fuel to the argument that officers here should be armed.

The alarming number of assaults on New Zealand police this holiday season had reignited the polarising debate, and also highlighted other areas of concern facing the local police force.

Police Association vice-president and Hawke's Bay Police Senior Sergeant Luke Shadbolt said officers had been campaigning for arms for a number of years.


 


"We have a survey of our members on an annual basis, and consistently the majority of members are now saying that they are in favour of it, and the stance of the Police Association is that we have been in favour of it for a number of years.

"That stems from a number of police deaths that we have had the past couple of years, around the time Len Snee was killed and the rising number of jobs where firearms were presented at officers."

Mr Shadbolt said tighter laws around alcohol and more police resources would also improve police and public safety.

"Gun arming would not solve all the issues that occurred over the weekend, but is one of a general number of things that would improve safety of our members.

"I think it would be a deterrent for people attacking police officers. It is another tool that we can have, and it is about having them when we need them because these volatile incidents can develop very quickly."

There have been four serious attacks on five police officers nationwide since Saturday. Three of those occurred in Waikato, and once in Dargaville where a woman attempted to shoot an officer with his own taser. But Whangarei Area Commander Inspector Tracy Phillips said the incident did not make a strong case for arming police, as the outcome could have been much more serious had the taser been a gun, which she said were easier to use.

Police Minister Judith Collins agreed and said police were able to take weapons to jobs at their own discretion. Changes to alcohol laws should also help prevent similar attacks happening in future, she said.

Mr Shadbolt said on Christmas Eve in Hawke's Bay alone there were three serious incidents that would have benefited from those changes.

In Hastings, a man in his 40s walked into the police station with a "very realistic" imitation sawn-off shotgun and threatened staff because noise control had confiscated his stereo earlier that evening.

A domestic violence incident in Napier escalated when a man in his 40s was arrested for allegedly threatening to stab a family member and slashing car tyres. His nephew, aged in his 20s, then allegedly tried to attack the attending police officer with a steel bar.

Two Waipukurau officers were also put into a dangerous situation when a brawl involving close to 100 people broke out after a pub closed.

The nearest back-up was half an hour's drive away, Mr Shadbolt said.

"In Hawke's Bay a big issue is the amount of alcohol. Just about all domestic violence incidents and most incidents of violence out on the streets involves people and alcohol.

"Another issue is not having staff and resources, especially over the holiday period when costs are high."

Mr Shadbolt said his Australian colleagues were always amazed Kiwi officers remained unarmed.

"They are amazed that we aren't an armed police force and as they say they don't deal with the same number of attacks on police staff as we do."

Waipukurau Police attend mass bar brawl, p5

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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