President's Column - Police as 'tall poppies'

Vol 43, No.10 | NZPA | Mon November 1st, 2010

Being a fairly modest bunch as police officers, we have never really felt vulnerable to “tall poppy’ syndrome.

We always believed that was reserved for high profile sportspeople, entrepreneurs, media stars, politicians and others whose heads metaphorically stood above the rest of the swaying crop, thus making them vulnerable to attempts to cut them down to size.

But recent attacks on us by conspiracy theorists, broken down ex-cops turned politicians, dodgy lawyers and others, all enthusiastically reported in the media, lead me to believe that we must be regarded as successful - hence tall poppies - and that some believe we need to be trimmed.

So maybe it’s not such a bad sign that we are being constantly attacked, because it means we are actually seen as doing a very good job.

Certainly, the response I get from what I would consider decent New Zealanders, of all creeds, colours and cultures, after yet another salvo has been fired at fired at us - or in keeping with the analogy, the latest slash - is that the vast majority of New Zealanders are not only supportive, but also appreciative and satisfied with what we achieve as an organisation.

That same thoughtful reaction to matters Police has come through as we discuss the inevitable move towards general arming of police officers.

Statistics are always able to be interpreted to support an individual’s argument, but one irrefutable fact which came through from both police officers and the public in our recent survey (reported in this issue of Police News), is that the status quo is not acceptable.

Given that consensus, it is simply a matter of what we change to, and that is where the discussion now is.

Police Association Conference delegates, a very good cross section of New Zealand police ranging from non-sworn support staff through to commissioned officers, following lengthy debate, came to the conclusion that we cannot wait until the next shooting of unarmed police officers before we begin carrying firearms.

I am confident that the same supportive and sensible general population I mentioned before will come to the same conclusion, albeit in their own time.

That support will be well considered and will take a little longer; it will come once they realise that the compromise of lockboxes will simply not be sufficient to ensure police can protect themselves and the public.

So, expect the unwarranted attacks to continue; but also have faith that the unreasonableness of most of these attacks, designed to chop us down, actually give the so-called silent majority the opportunity to reinforce their support for us, and ultimately, support our need to be properly equipped to do the job they expect of us.

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