General arming of police 'not the answer'

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo: RNZ
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Police Minister Poto Williams, and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster are remaining firmly against the general arming of police, despite 73 percent of frontline officers favouring the move.

A survey of almost 6000 Police Association members revealed the statistic this morning, the highest level of support for general arming it had recorded in a decade.

Coster has previously ruled out general arming. He said it was tempting to reach for simple solutions in the face of attacks on police - like the one in 2020 that left constable Matt Hunt dead - and general arming was one.

However, evidence showed it would not make police safer, he said.

"We want to make sure our people are safe but we do not see general arming as the answer to that," Coster said.

"The evidence that we have available to us suggests that being armed doesn't necessarily improve officer safety but more people are likely to be shot and so we have to select the things that will make the biggest difference.

"For every incident where you can point to where it would have made our people safer, you can point to others where it would likely have made things worse ... we have a lot of incidents we can point to where people have made the right decision to withdraw for their own safety and have apprehended the offender later. Having a firearm in those situations could well lead to escalation."

Police Minister Poto Williams. Photo: RNZ
Police Minister Poto Williams. Photo: RNZ
He said police were independent from politics, and his role was to understand what the community would want and expect from policing, and factor that into the organisation's decision making.

"Our responsibility is to look across all of our settings and decide what would make our people the safest.

"I'm not feeling particular political pressure on this issue, I have my own view of what the right thing to do is and that's what I'm sticking with."

Speaking in Christchurch this afternoon, Ardern said it had been a debate as long as she could remember but general arming was "personally not one that I would want to see occur".

"I've long been of that view and I share that view as the daughter of a policeman ... the safety of our police is top of mind, that's why quick access to arms when our police need them is critical."

She said what was important was that police have good, quick access to arms when they needed them.

"At the same time, general arming would mean our New Zealand police force at all times carrying a weapon on their person. That is a significant step change."

"It's a very big difference to say having them available quickly in their vehicles to them carrying with them 24/7."

Williams also opposed general arming.

"I have always been really clear that I do not believe in general arming of police," she said.

"It fundamentally changes our relationship with the police. We have a relationship that's about trust and approachability and general arming will fundamentally change that."

She said she was "absolutely" concerned with the statistic that 25 percent of general duties staff had been confronted with a gun, and Coster was working on other measures to improve safety for officers.

"It's my role to do everything I can to support them to be safe. It's my belief that there is more we can do in this space before general arming becomes an option and I'm firmly committed to looking at those options to keep them safe."

She would not rule in or out any specific measures at this stage, however.

"We're already quite heavily armed anyway as a service. I'm not going to rule in options or rule out options."

Ardern said it was also a decision for police themselves to make, but said she knew Coster also did not support the constant carrying of weapons as side arms.

Comments

There's an old saying, "you don't take a knife to a gunfight"

"To withdraw for their own safety".

The public should not expect police to put themselves in harm's way, unarmed.

Ardern, Coster and Williams have their views to be sure, and while Coster said it was tempting to reach for simple solutions, I find it worrying that simple solutions and common-sense are taking a back seat in today's multicultural world going mad.
Show me anywhere in the world where being nice to criminals has ever made for a better society. Police need to be armed.

In my experience I have found "common-sense" to be neither common nor sensible.

To me it is not about arming police but providing a proper deterrent to armed offenders.
Anyone who commits a crime with a weapon, of any description, needs to know that they will be treated harshly by the law. Even if the crime is simple speeding and having a weapon in the car. If you have a pocket knife in the glove box, make sure you don't speed.
1st: All international treaties we have signed up to that would prevent any of my suggestions below should be repudiated in respect to crimes undertaken with a weapon.
2nd: You use a weapon in a crime, whether or not you injured anyone with it, you are arrested and locked up, irrespective of age. No home/work/family leave.
3rd: no bail before trial. You stay locked up until your trial. No exceptions.
4th: The only acceptable defence is that you acted in self defence. Insanity, childhood abuse/mistreatment, poverty, coercion, partner abuse et al should be disallowed as a defence,
5th: If you are found guilty there should be a minimum period of imprisonment, say 10 years, with no judicial discretion for reduction for first offence, early guilty plea or victim forgiveness, and absolutely no home detention.
6th: No parole.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter