THERE was no time.

It was not their city, not their beat. They would have been totally justified in waiting to call their supervisor back home, or at least Christchurch central station, and request instructions.

But they had their weapons and their gear in the car. It's an active shooter out there.
There was no time.

Information to hand would have been sporadic, hearsay, speculation.

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But what would have been clear was they were facing a committed mass killer with powerful automatic weaponry, and compared to their standard issue Glock handgun or Bushmaster rifle, they were totally outgunned.

There was no time.

They swiftly choose a search area and get a possible sighting, driving erratic in busy traffic. They now know there have been two shootings, mass casualties.

They need an instant decision, the kind that will be debated and investigated for years with a hindsight they don't have. Tail, pursue, or engage?

There was no time.

A combined 40 years of training and service have led to this moment. Sheer terror and the instinct for self-preservation pushed aside, thoughts of their families held back.
They make the call, stop him now.

Smashing their car into his driver's door as hard as they can, a bone-jarring impact, but they pull themselves out and go for him, because he's not going down quietly and has those guns at arm's reach while people all around them are slowing or stopping.
There was no time.

One of them sees the gear in the back. Is that a suicide bomb? He goes for the radio, he knows his fellow officers are coming, and while the two of them can't get clear in time he can use however many seconds he has left to warn them off. This killer is not taking out anybody else.

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There was no time.

It's all milliseconds. With one going for the radio, the other has to confront the killer. Can he detain him? He has strict rules of engagement, can't just start firing like the Yanks do. This guy could get off a shot at them. They scream at the public to stay back.

His partner changes plan, you have to back each other up and keep all eyes on the target. He runs to the passenger door, you need both hands to open it and subdue the suspect.
If the killer's pulled his weapon, he's got them targeted with nowhere to duck, or perhaps he's grabbing for a detonator right now.

There was no time.

Got him. Drag him out, away from his guns, away from the bomb. Hands cleared. On his front, handcuffed and held. Straight on the radio — suspect in custody, move in cautiously as car may be wired, trying to confirm if there are other assailants. Get the crucial information out to end this nightmare.

They've got him alive. There can be justice now. No martyrdom. No agonising questions that can never be answered. A vital account that can be used in coming years by security experts and policy makers to take the steps to ensure this horror never happens again.

And there had been no time.

The debate will continue in coming weeks about how much intelligence the various New Zealand and Australian agencies either did or should have had on the suspected Christchurch mosque killer before he committed his atrocities.

But street cops, indeed all first-responders, must confront the situation in whatever form they find it, with whatever information they have, even when they know the odds will be against them.

We've all had our moments with them — that "unfair" speeding ticket we shouldn't have got, the widely different versions of events from that Friday night stoush outside the pub when everybody's had a few too many.

But when it gets deadly real, they are all we have. Rushing to the sounds of the danger. Putting their uniformed bodies in front of ours along the path chosen by pure evil.

They hold our lives dearer than their own. And they never even hesitate.

Because there is no time.

Jared Smith is a Whanganui Chronicle journalist.