Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Replica guns trigger armed police action


Guns were drawn 30 times by Rotorua police in the past two years with some callouts sparked by imitation weapons.

Figures released to The Daily Post provide a breakdown of firearms use by police between March 22, 2010, and June 30, 2012.

Police drew guns 67 times in the wider Bay of Plenty region during thiat period. Four incidents occurred in Rotorua during the first half of last year, 21 during 2011 and five between March 22 and December 31, 2010.

Rotorua area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said several 2011 incidents were false alarms.

"During 2011 Rotorua area police dealt with a number of incidents involving young people foolishly presenting imitation firearms in public places.

"Modern imitation firearms are strikingly similar to real firearms and can usually only be discerned as being an imitation after very close inspection. It is therefore not surprising that such behaviour creates a high level of concern to the general public."

Gun draws and shots fired in training are not included in the figures. Neither are draws by member of the Armed Offenders Squad or special tactics groups police - though any shots fired by those officers are included. Rotorua incidents involved officers from Rotorua and Murupara.

Mr Horne said any firearms incidents called into police were assumed to involve loaded weapons, until proven otherwise.

"Consequently, a number of incidents that generated an armed response by police during 2011 were found to be not as serious as first thought.

"Nevertheless, people behaving irresponsibly with imitation firearms place themselves at great risk and should expect to be confronted by armed police."

No shots were fired by police in the Bay of Plenty region during the 27-month period.

Nationally police drew firearms 104 times in the six months to June 30 last year. Two incidents resulted in guns being fired, both of which were non-fatal.

Last January Auckland man William Smith was shot in the leg when police attended a domestic violence incident in South Auckland. Police said Smith had threatened officers with a cylinder and garden spade, before being pepper sprayed, electroshocked and shot.

Two months later, Christchurch police shot Zakariye Mohamed Hussein, 27, after a frenzied knife rampage. Hussein kidnapped and stabbed a pie delivery driver and knifed a city council worker.

Police Association president Greg O'Connor said the introduction of electroshock weapons in March 2010 had helped reduce the number of gun draws by officers.

"While it was not meant to be a substitute to the firearm, the reality is that it did fill that gap in the use of force options between say pepper spray [and guns]."

In 2011, police drew firearms 277 times, resulting in two fatal shootings of suspects. The shooting of Hawke's Bay teenager Lachan Kelly-Tumarae, 19, who died in hospital after being struck by four of 14 bullets fired by police, drew widespread criticism. He had threatened officers with a loaded shotgun in March. The second fatal 2011 incident occurred in July when police shot Antony Roydon Ratahi, 46, of Taranaki. He was holding his ex-girlfriend hostage and died from a bullet to the head.


The numbers


Police firearms:



  • 2010 (March 22 - Dec 31)


  • 2011 (Jan 1 - Dec 31)


  • 2012 (Jan - June 30)

Rotorua



  • Draws: 5, 21, 4.


  • Discharges: 0, 0, 0.


  • Total: 5, 21, 4.

National



  • Draws: 182, 273, 102.


  • Discharges: 1, 4, 2.


  • Total: 183, 277, 104.


- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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