Police worthy of acknowledgement

It is uncomfortable to consider that positives, as well as horror, were visible during Friday's terrorist atrocity. Most of us simply do not and will never understand the gravity and complexity of emotions experienced by those involved. That sobering thought is almost all-consuming.

Yet it is worth considering how broad the net of affected people was on Friday - and in the days subsequent. Those targeted, of course, will forever have our support and sympathy. But they were not the only New Zealanders involved.

On an otherwise ho-hum Friday, dozens of New Zealand police officers were called to respond to an incident the likes of which none had experienced before. They had not grown up exposed to such incidents. They had never had to mentally prepare themselves that such events were an ever-present threat.

They were clearly well trained, yet training for the worst-case scenario cannot possibly replicate the reality of being not only confronted with, but thrust in the middle of, that scenario as it unfolds. Our police force was asked to do something it had never done before, in the midst of a situation its officers had most likely never anticipated happening to this country, or to them.

It would be reasonable for them to have frozen. They could have erred on the side of caution, on procedure, or safety. They could have erred on the side of inexperience, letting that reality shape their decision making. They could have erred on the side of aggression, of retribution. It would have been a wrong, but perhaps understandable, reaction.

Instead, they responded quickly and professionally. They thrust themselves into harm's way. They were urgent and calm at the same time. Live reports told of police traversing the city at high speeds, guns drawn and jaws set. Many of those officers had already seen the reality of what they were chasing: the cold-blooded, inconsequence of life as seen through the eyes of a terrorist.

They knew they were chasing a person or people who were well armed and capable of utter destruction. They knew explosive devices or other mass-casualty mechanisms were a distinct possibility.

Yet, when faced with the first opportunity to detain the alleged offender, they did so instantly, at great risk, and with great restraint. They acted professionally, bravely and calmly. They showed the hallmarks of police officers who are well led and well trained, who see themselves as servants of their community.

They shone, in a day when the country depended on them to shine.

Yes, over the course of our nation's history there have been bad apples in the police force, and at times there have been strands of rotten culture. Those realities are not to be forgotten, nor excused, in the wake of what we saw last week. Any organisation the size of our police force will deal with bad apples and bad culture from time to time. Thankfully, and repeatedly, our police force works to improve such issues.

Hailing the performance of our police force, in particular the officers directly involved in Friday's attack, should not be seen in any way as a distraction from what many New Zealanders are suffering through at this time.

But it is worthwhile acknowledging how lucky we are as a country to have a police force the envy of the world, and one which has the respect of this nation. Such statements should not be seen as hyperbole. Our police officers have earned such praise.

Police are on heightened alert this week as the terror risk remains high across the country. We could help them by making their jobs as easy as possible, respecting them, and acknowledging the many machinations that have gone into creating a police force as empathetic as it is professional.

Their job is to serve. They have done it well.


I agree, the police were outstanding and in particular the bravery from the two officers who I think were from the small Lincoln Station. We are hearing stories of incredible heroism in the Mosques which is hard to talk about at this time.