Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Call for 'guns on hips' renewed after rifle aimed at cop

File Photo / NZ Herald
File Photo / NZ Herald

The Police Association has renewed its calls for "guns on hips" after a rifle was allegedly aimed at a female officer in the Bay of Plenty early yesterday morning.

The officer had been responding to a report of suspicious activity in Katikati when she spotted a man near an intersection, police said.

When she stopped to speak to him, he dropped bags he was carrying and is alleged to have swung a rifle toward her.

The officer left immediately and called for back up, before armed offenders squad members were deployed in the area.

A 20-year-old man was arrested and yesterday appeared in Tauranga District Court on charges including burglary and using a firearm against a law enforcement officer.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the incident - which came just a month after a police officer was shot in Mayoral Drive - highlighted dangers faced by police.

"We are just lucky on this occasion that her leaving was an option, but with nine colleagues shot in the last three years, that hasn't always been an option."

Mr O'Connor acknowledged police access to firearms had been improved with the roll-out of secure compartments containing tasers and firearms in 908 front-line patrol cars, but believed it would take a tragedy before the Government allowed police officers to carry firearms.

"We believe every police officer will end up with a firearm on their hip - but it will take either a number of unarmed police officers to be shot, or a member of the public to be shot because the police couldn't take action - before it happens."

A Police National Headquarters spokesperson however said rates of firearms-related offending have remained at a "very low percentage" of total violent offending.

"The safety of Police and the public is paramount in these situations, and any threat or use of force against either is taken seriously."

"However, officers are highly trained to assess the correct tactical options that may be required in any situation, and we remain confident have the right skills, training and equipment required to respond appropriately."

Police were also rolling out revised tactical options training for more frontline staff, which include the use of tasers and firearms.

The last officer to be shot and killed while on duty was in 2009.

- NZ Herald

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