I agree with Garner on Police

Duncan Garner writes:

We have a big decision to make as a country: What do we want our first responders to do when it comes to national emergencies.

Blink, delay, wait, and let people die perhaps, or charge in.

Think about the New York firefighters at 9/11 where many ran towards their death in the pursuit of saving lives. Dumb or brave national heroes?

I say we must let calculated courage be our test – and sometimes locals know best, not transplanted officers from Wellington who take charge because a 50-year-old piece of law says that must be the case. 

Although, I accept in many ways police are damned if they do and totally damned if they don’t.

But I applaud the spontaneous, spur of the moment first responders who bravely touched down on on Monday looking for signs of life.

They didn’t wait for the cops, they just went in and put their own lives at risk – what a remarkable rescue.

That so many got off. They are now fighting for their lives and will in time receive the attention it deserves. Those local heroes, the chopper pilots, skippers and the like.

This sounds harsh, but all those people got rescued because the locals acted before the police arrived and banned rescue activity. If the Police had got there earlier and taken charge earlier, the death toll may have been much larger.

The locals are heroes of the highest order. They risked their own lives to save lives.

But twice now in the past decade, our police have stopped, blinked, waited and waited and waited.

Their refusal to enter Pike River immediately after the first explosion has been widely criticised by families. Now their refusal to land on White Island is being questioned and likened to the Pike debacle.

It is deja vu.

Our Police are not experts in everything.

Hell, they mistakenly said a criminal investigation had been launched into this White Island tragedy. Wrong. They meant coronial. That’s a howler. 

Therein lies the problem. If they can’t get the little stuff right, how on earth are we meant to have continued confidence in their calls?

Especially when other heroes have landed on the volcano, saved lives and put the chopper in the hanger.

While for the Police, the clock continues to tick tock tick tock.

I actually think the law should be changed so the Police are not in charge of major disasters. I think Fire and Emergency New Zealand should be in charge. Their culture and training is all about judging acceptable risk to save lives.

The Police are excellent at solving crimes and front line police duties. That is not the same skill set as risk assessment for rescue operations.

I hope the inevitable Commission of Inquiry into White Island includes a scrutiny of the response.

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