Police and Traffic and Guns

The Herald reports:

New specialist traffic officers will be used to issue speeding tickets, freeing to concentrate on fighting crime. …

he new-look “transport enforcement officers” proposal will effectively be a return to the separate traffic control force that patrolled the country’s roads in black-and-white cars until the early 1990s.

Those officers were part of the Ministry of Transport; the new traffic officers will remain under the control of the police force.

On the face of it, the proposal by Commissioner Broad seems sensible. I don’t think the proposal is a reversal of the 1992 merger, as control remains with the Police. Before the merger the Police were having to assist the MOT more and more with stuff like drink driving blitzes, and the level of training for MOT officers was seen as inadequate for the powers they were gaining.

Police Commissioner Howard Broad yesterday said he was “quite uncomfortable” with fully sworn police being used for road policing, as they were often just “sitting there with their radar gun”.

He told Parliament’s law and order select committee he wanted to use laws that allowed him to designate traffic enforcement officers, and also make greater use of technology such as speed cameras for road policing.

The move would free police officers for other duties, such as neighbourhood policing, he said.

Again, this seems a good move.

Civilians are now used to operate speed camera vans, but using a radar gun requires a police officer with power to stop a vehicle.

Mr Broad said he could give these limited powers under the Policing Act’s “authorised officers” section, and some motorway support officers in Auckland were already operating under this designation.

I say go for it.

Mr Broad also revealed a proposal to end firearms training for officers unlikely to require it, but increase it for those most likely to find themselves in dangerous situations.

Under the proposal, 40 per cent of Auckland police would not be able to use firearms. They would be trained only in use of the baton and pepper spray.

A critical response unit would be established to deal with call-outs.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove said the proposal could create problems, such as a community constable not being able to respond to an armed robbery because he could not use firearms.

Mr Broad said officers with low-level firearms training were often more likely to be killed, and he asked if Mr Cosgrove wanted officers trained in “gunfight protocol”.

“The idea you send a community constable into these situations as if they are Wyatt Earp is complete nonsense.”

Mr Broad became heated when the Napier siege – in which Jan Molenaar shot one officer dead and seriously wounded two others – was raised.

“Those police officers who did go in there [to rescue the wounded] without firearms, went in on humanitarian grounds, and they recovered people,” he said.

“They did an extremely good job in an extremely courageous way. They did not need to have firearms to do that.”

Mr O’Connor said the firearms policy was “a recipe for disaster” that would leave the police “out-gunned”.

I’d be interested in the views of the Police Assn on the firearms proposal, but on the surface it also seems reasonable, considering long standing police (despite Clayton’s grand standing) is that the Police are not routinely armed.

Comments (18)

Login to comment or vote