A mob attack on a lone Waikato police officer could have turned even uglier had he drawn his pistol, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall says.
Constable Perry Griffin was knocked to the ground at the Kawhia wharf by a group who allegedly kicked him, and took his Taser, radio and pepper spray.
He was recovering from a sore hip as well as bruises and grazing to his face and arms.
Three people appeared in Hamilton District Court on Saturday on charges stemming from the attack.
The attack was the fifth on a Waikato officer since just before Christmas.
Mr Marshall said it was a concern that the officer's Glock pistol could have been taken from him.
But he told Radio New Zealand the officer had made "the right decision" not to draw the firearm.
"When I was speaking to the senior volunteer fire officer at Kawhia, he said if the firearm had been withdrawn, anything could have happened in that pack mentality."
Mr Marshall said the attack was "a very ugly situation" which escalated slowly over 45 minutes, and it could not have been anticipated.
"I'm not sure how many people he was dealing with initially, but certainly once supporters of the person who was going to be arrested joined, and once other people came to the area, there was something like 80 people, he tells me, in the immediate area egging others on, some just being passive bystanders."
Mr Marshall said there were 62 one-person stations throughout the country, including on the Chatham and Pitcairn islands.
But single-officer stations were not the subject of "any undue assaults".
"It is a rare occasion. It shouldn't be happening. It does happen, unfortunately. Policing is inherently dangerous.
"A lot of police officers who get assaulted are actually in provincial or city areas, but it was a very unfortunate situation and we're going to do the right thing by Constable Griffin."
Mr Marshall said police dealt with hundreds of violent incidents every week, and assaults on officers were the exception.
Alcohol and drugs appeared to be a common factor.
"And there is also a particular element who will also have a go at the police, it is unfortunate but that is the reality."
Police Association vice president Stuart Mills said Mr Griffin would have been safer if a second officer was present, and police should reconsider how sole-charge officers tackled dangerous situations.
"There have been far too many of these serious assaults on police officers. Policing is dangerous, however this type of injury on a regular basis, as has been seen recently, should not be occurring," he told Radio New Zealand.
"Police may have to stand back and wait until back-up is with them before engaging such incidents."
The Labour Party has promised to double the number of officers at sole-charge stations, and reiterated the call in light of the recent attacks.
In a statement to Radio New Zealand, Police Minister Anne Tolley said Labour was using the attack to score cheap political points.
She said police deployed staff as they saw fit.
- APNZBy Matthew Backhouse @Mbackhouse Email Matthew