Christmas Day incident supports arguments against policy of police routinely carrying guns on patrol.

The nasty incident in Dargaville on Christmas Day in which a mob with a "pack mentality" viciously beat two police officers has, predictably, produced fresh calls to arm police.

Had the officers carried guns, the argument goes, they might have approached the incident differently and, importantly, the bystanders might have reacted differently.

"Policing is a very dangerous occupation, as this incident highlights," said the Police Association vice-president, Stuart Mills. "We believe the risk would be reduced if officers had a firearm on their hip."

It is not clear how the police and the mob would have acted differently or how the risk would have been reduced if the officers at the scene had been carrying guns.


The evidence from the Dargaville incident suggests the reverse. One of the officers was armed with a Taser, which he used to little effect. Indeed, it seemed only to inflame the mob further and they disarmed him after which one of their number seized his weapon and turned it on him.

Fortunately, it did not fire. But, as a reader in the brevities column today points out, what if the weapon had been a gun? What then?

It does not require a great leap of imagination to see that the story we would be telling now - and the debate arising from the incident - would be very different.

There may be some good, logical arguments for the arming of police. But the Dargaville incident is not one of them.