The Press editorial:
The year is coming to a bad conclusion with no fewer than five serious attacks on police officers. In the most serious incident, in Northland, an officer was beaten unconscious and kicked and pummelled as he lay on the ground. One of his assailants attempted to use his Taser stun gun on him but could not get it to work. A witness later told the police that she feared the officer would be killed. In another incident, in Huntly, an officer was king-hit by a man from a drunken mob as the officer attempted to make an arrest after a boy-racer complaint. In a third incident, a young woman officer attending a family violence complaint had her ankle broken so badly it required surgery.
After such a spate of incidents it is understandable that the frontline officers’ union should call for all officers to carry guns. It is understandable but it is also faulty.
It goes without saying that assaults on police officers are deplorable and everything possible should be done that might deter them. But to allow officers routinely to carry weapons would be to cross the Rubicon in law enforcement in New Zealand. It would subtly but fundamentally alter the relationship between the police and the public with insufficient gain in safety to both to justify it.
I agree that we should resist the general arming of the Police. I think having firearms available in all vehicles is sadly necessary and should be done. But I don’t think the case has been made for the general arming of all Police.
However it is fair to say, that such a day may come in the future. If the level of violence against Police officers increases, there will be a point at which a change in policy may have to be considered.