President's Column: A spate of firearms incidents

Vol. 48, No. 8 | NZPA | Tue September 1st, 2015

And then there were four! In a nine-day period last month, we had three serious armed incidents reported where we were either shot at or had to shoot armed offenders.

There were gunshots fired at two Palmerston North police stations, then armed offenders confronted police in Raetihi and Motueka, and right in the middle of that, and unreported, we had an offender in Hamilton fire a shotgun through the rear of his vehicle at pursuing police officers.

So what is happening out there? What has changed? The armchair critics always said that if police were armed, the crims would arm themselves. Too late, I would have thought.

As the gangs, with their stand-over tactics and intimidation, have become more entrenched, they, and those in their sphere, are arming up in defence.  Because we operate in the same world, police are becoming collateral damage.

Combine that with a generation of criminals who have grown up thinking it’s worth “having a go” when police seek to pull them over on the roadside and we have a lethal mix of armed crooks who know that if they resist or flee, police are under all sorts of restraints.

Ironically, an IPCA report published in the middle of this firearm mayhem was highly critical of a police officer who it found had used excess force in subduing a burglar who was resisting arrest.

We have to behave better than those we police, and that includes being sparing in our use of coercive force, although the test for that can be subjective.

Police have to be accountable, but decisions around the reasonableness of our response need to take cognisance of the world in which we are operating.

We need to maintain a balance between being over-responsive and too tentative. A tentative police will only result in the good people who live in the sphere of gang intimidation being forced to look elsewhere for their protection.

Meanwhile, this spate of firearm incidents is alarming and we can only hope that the luck that has spared us from having any members shot this year continues. The professional manner in which all these incidents were resolved is a tribute to the quality of our members.

It’s all very well for Police to reassure the public that such cases are rare or, in the case of Hamilton, just not tell them at all, as they try to spare the public the reality of criminal activity. It would be good if the administration focused on providing that reassurance to our members as well. The decision to allow frontline police to carry Tasers at all times is a positive step in this regard, and I congratulate the Commissioner for this new policy.

Back to listing