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Arming the police

Written By: - Date published: 12:14 pm, July 27th, 2012 - 49 comments
Categories: police - Tags: ,

This is the second post in what, depressingly, may become a series of posts about arming the police. Regular as clockwork the suggestion keeps coming back, here’s the latest version:

Call for ‘guns on hips’ renewed after rifle aimed at cop

The Police Association has renewed its calls for “guns on hips” after a rifle was allegedly aimed at a female officer in the Bay of Plenty early yesterday morning. … The officer left immediately and called for back up, before armed offenders squad members were deployed in the area. …

Police Association president Greg O’Connor said the incident – which came just a month after a police officer was shot in Mayoral Drive – highlighted dangers faced by police.

“We are just lucky on this occasion that her leaving was an option, but with nine colleagues shot in the last three years, that hasn’t always been an option.”

Mr O’Connor acknowledged police access to firearms had been improved with the roll-out of secure compartments containing tasers and firearms in 908 front-line patrol cars, but believed it would take a tragedy before the Government allowed police officers to carry firearms.

“We believe every police officer will end up with a firearm on their hip – but it will take either a number of unarmed police officers to be shot, or a member of the public to be shot because the police couldn’t take action – before it happens.”

I think that the majority of the country would remain opposed to the idea of routinely armed police. Personally, my objections are the same as the first time I wrote about this, so I’m just going to repeat myself.  I’m opposed for four reasons.

First objection – It won’t make the police any safer. Anyone mad enough to shoot at a cop (or anyone else for that matter) is not going to be deterred if the cop is armed.  Carrying a gun doesn’t stop you from being shot at, it doesn’t make you any less likely to get hit (better protective gear does that).  In the high profile case in 2010, the officer involved,  Senior Constable Bruce Lamb made the same point:

The police dog handler shot in the jaw in Christchurch yesterday is deeply upset about the loss of his dog Gage, but does not think it would have made a difference if he had been armed at the time of the incident. … Mr Lamb had access to a firearm in his police truck, but chose not to pick it up when he went into the house.

Second objection – It will make the public less safe. More guns means more bullets means more people getting hit. It’s not rocket science. From a 2010 piece on making guns more accessible to police:

The Police Association welcomed the move, but gave warning that it would ultimately mean more people getting shot.

Credit for acknowledging the truth, but then:

Greg O’Connor, the association’s president, said: “If these officers had shot someone [yesterday] there would be a massive outcry in the media about why did the police need to shoot them and that’s where we just need to grow up as a country.” New Zealanders needed to stop “getting squeamish” about firearms and “get squeamish” about officers getting shot, he said.

I find the causal attitude to increased civilian deaths horrifying. I will remain “squeamish” about people getting shot, and I refuse to “grow up” about it. If I thought that carrying guns was going to make police safer there might be a debate to be had here, but see above.

Third objection – The argument that there has been a recent upsurge in police shootings that justifies this escalation is rubbish.

Fourth objection – Escalation is a bad idea. If guns become more visible and are used more frequently, then of course the serious criminal element will respond in kind. No one ends up any safer, the general public are considerably more at risk, and New Zealand has lost another stubborn vestige of its innocence, never to be regained. How safe are the heavily armed police in America?

49 comments on “Arming the police”

  1. Tom Gould 1

    O’Connor’s Tory mates must need a fresh diversion today.

  2. weka 2

    How far away is O’Connor from retirement?

  3. Tom 3

    R0bins may be right, but having lived in a country where police officers routinely carried revolvers it seemed to me that they did not suffer the same amount of aggravation NZ police officers do. You just don’t mess with someone carrying a gun.

    Given current trends, it may be only a matter of time – and tragedy – before it happens here.

    • McFlock 3.1

      You’re also less likely to be comfortable around them, exchange smalltalk, give them information, ask their advice on situations that might be getting out of hand, etc.
         
      Firearms distance people, as a byproduct of the induced trepidation you described. 

      • Tom 3.1.1

        That was not my observation. It is the person and situation you react to, not his or her ‘appointments’ – weapons on their working belt if in uniform.

  4. McFlock 4

    So the police have almost a thousand guns on the street already, and it’s still not enough. Why don’t they just coax mount cannon on the PTZ traffic cameras in many streets today? That way they could safely intercede in many events without leaving the safety of their control room. /sarc

    • Tom 4.1

      Nice, but save your sarcasm for the armed offenders squad.

      The reality is that NZ Police already deploy firearms – not as part of their uniform, but generally secured in a vehicle nearby.

      I much prefer a culture which does not glamourise guns, but as people get desperate during tough times anything is possible.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    “We believe every police officer will end up with a firearm on their hip – but it will take either a number of unarmed police officers to be shot, or a member of the public to be shot because the police couldn’t take action – before it happens.”

    Wow, giving the police guns will make them clairvoyant and thus be able to be in place to be able to stop a crime from happening.

    /sarc

    The real tragedy will be if our police start carrying guns all the time as that will show that we’ve failed as a society.

    • prism 5.1

      DTB 5

      “We believe every police officer will end up with a firearm on their hip – but it will take either a number of unarmed police officers to be shot, or a member of the public to be shot because the police couldn’t take action – before it happens.”

      What about the murdered teenager that police ‘accidentally’ shot? His mother misses him. Badly. He was a real person not a statistic. This is the police making life more dangerous for the public. They shouldn’t have any more guns.

      Try reducing numbers of the ones already out there. Pay money for them to be handed in and destroyed. Have better border controls than biosecurity? Guns as a back-up, flak jackets and working in pairs for all police. In theory they are good people doing a difficult job. But let’s decriminalise marijuana. Have a joint officer, thanks I will as I’m not driving. May happen. Pigs can fly. That’s enigmatic – and you will put your own construction on it. I’m not thinking of police here..

    • Vicky32 5.2

      The real tragedy will be if our police start carrying guns all the time as that will show that we’ve failed as a society.

      Exactly right!

  6. higherstandard 6

    I don’t believe there is any pressing need to have all police carrying visible weapons.

    I do believe there should be harsher penalties for assaults on police, evading police pursuit and that the police should have powers to issue instant fines and demerits to the tiresome jerks that are drunk or just plane disorderly.

    • McFlock 6.1

      And more police. 

      • higherstandard 6.1.1

        Certainly more at the coalface and visible around town.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          And more administrative support for sworn officers so the sworn officers can actually spend time on the front line.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1.1.1

            But…but…that would mean back office staff and everyone knows back office staff don’t actually do anything…

            /sarc

            • McFlock 6.1.1.1.1.1

              Nothing that can’t be done (badly) by a contracted company owned by a national party supporter. 
                   
              Sigh – it’s funny coz it’s true 😥 

    • Draco T Bastard 6.2

      harsher penalties for assaults on police

      Why? Assault is assault, it really shouldn’t make a difference if the person assaulted is wearing a uniform or not.

      evading police pursuit and that the police should have powers to issue instant fines and demerits to the tiresome jerks that are drunk or just plane disorderly.

      I’m sure you’ll find that they already do.

      • Lanthanide 6.2.1

        “Why? Assault is assault, it really shouldn’t make a difference if the person assaulted is wearing a uniform or not.”

        Yeah, I prefer this approach too. Placing the police (or anyone) on a special pedestal makes it go to their head and they start abusing their position.

        • mac1 6.2.1.1

          If deterrence works, even for some, then assaulting a police officer as a more serious form of assault should be considered as we do ask our police to put themselves in situations where assault is more likely than for you or I. That’s not putting them on a pedestal- just recognition of their role in putting themselves at risk for their community. I suspect also that any policeman who abuses his position is not doing that from a sense of permission given by knowing that assault charges will cost the offender more dearly. Who, for heaven’s sake, wants to be assaulted?

          Or shot at. Does carrying a gun give permission to the criminals to also carry arms? I don’t know, just as much as I don’t know the weight that deterrence carries either by gun carrying officers or the fear of punishment in court for assault. Given that much crime is alcohol fueled, probably not much.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1.1.1

            If deterrence worked, there wouldn’t be any crime.

            • diddle 6.2.1.1.1.1

              If your brain worked you’d think twice before typing.

              • fender

                Hey diddle diddle thats not how to spell dribble.

                I’m with mac1 on the merit of having a harsher penalty for those who think they can seriously assault police. If someone gets convicted a second time for serious assault on an officer I believe they are displaying behaviour that warrants a harsher penalty. They are effectivly saying they have no regard for officers and will use violence against them if they see fit.

                As for all police carrying guns at all times, all I can see are more bullets flying around as it seemed to be the best option at the time and the innocent member of the public who got hit by a stray bullet just wasn’t seen in the heat of the moment.

                • Colonial Viper

                  If someone gets convicted a second time for serious assault on an officer I believe they are displaying behaviour that warrants a harsher penalty. They are effectivly saying they have no regard for officers and will use violence against them if they see fit.

                  What about tougher penalties for officers who smack up lawful protestors?

                  Where are the checks and balances.

                  • Murray Olsen

                    Are there actually any penalties for cops who bash lawful protestors? I don’t recall many ever being convicted.

                  • KJT

                    I think the charge of assaulting a police officer should carry a greater penalty, But! As upholders of the law there should be worse penalties for police officers who break the law. It is reasonable to expect those charged with enforcing the law to follow it.

                    Police should not be able to make up evidence, withhold favourable evidence, lay extra charges for crimes not committed, unlawfully breach privacy and obstruct and assault legal protesters with impunity.
                    Like the Magistrate who got away with the hit and run they are supposed to know the law and therefore have more responsibility in that regard than an ordinary Jo Blow.

                    In contrast I have recently seen police who paralysed a teenager for life get away scott free and another teenager charged because they were in the car (terrified I my add) with a boy racer. He ended up punished more than the driver was. He lost his job because he was arrested.

                  • fender

                    “What about tougher penalties for officers who smack up lawful protestors?”

                    Sure I’m all for that most definitely, too often police seem to regard protesters as crash test dummies they can practice their latest moves on.

                    Police who break the law by abusing their powers should be kicked from the force and recieve the maximum possible sentence for their crime, they should know better after all.

                    As for checks and balances it’s conceivable that officers could have recording equipment that can be used to collect data, small discreet video incorporated into their vests perhaps. Would be useful as evidence in court too.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      As for checks and balances it’s conceivable that officers could have recording equipment that can be used to collect data, small discreet video incorporated into their vests perhaps.

                      Thought about that and you’d have to have it uploading in real time to an independent office. If you didn’t there would be the possibility of the information going missing.

                      Still a good idea though. Just a little more complicated than most realise.

                  • Vicky32

                    What about tougher penalties for officers who smack up lawful protestors?

                    Seconded!

      • prism 6.2.2

        DTB 6.2
        It should be worse to assault a police officer, you are so wrong when you say there is no difference. First they want to limit the likelihood of them as first people at a nasty event receiving dangerous retaliation. Second they want the uniform to result in respect or some semblance of it. We want to have a protective response team in society, the police are it and we want them to keep at it, as safely as possible for them and us, with tools to assist that, just not become like USA cops, even the Oz ones.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.2.2.1

          First they want to limit the likelihood of them as first people at a nasty event receiving dangerous retaliation.

          Deterrence doesn’t work.

          Second they want the uniform to result in respect or some semblance of it.

          Being a police officer should garner that respect. If they’re not getting it then they should probably question why they’re not as it most likely has something to do with how they act.

          We want to have a protective response team in society, the police are it and we want them to keep at it, as safely as possible for them and us, with tools to assist that,

          Yes but greater penalties for attacking a police officer isn’t one of those tools simply because it doesn’t work and brings about an Us vs Them mentality.

          • higherstandard 6.2.2.1.1

            “Being a police officer should garner that respect. If they’re not getting it then they should probably question why they’re not as it most likely has something to do with how they act.”

            So in a similar way it’s somehow the ambulance officers fault when they get abused or assaulted by drunk or drugged up idiots ?

            • KJT 6.2.2.1.1.1

              While many police officers are a credit to the uniform a large minority are not.

              I’ve seen some police officers, and the system itself, act in ways that definitely do not gain respect.

              Of course it is only poor or brown kids so who cares. Except when they finally take out their frustration and helplessness on someone else.

            • Draco T Bastard 6.2.2.1.1.2

              I was talking about respect, you’re talking about assault. The two things are different.

  7. Treetop 7

    The AOS need to be more readily available for a start and to make sure that all cops are trained and confident regarding the access to guns which they now have.

    Where is the money going to come from for guns?

  8. Flying spaghetti monster 8

    with the current state of firearms safety and ability in our police force, given recent events and small talk i’ve had with police, arming them all the time will be more dangerous for them, the public & make it easier for any criminal that wants a glock to get one.

  9. Murray Olsen 9

    The only benefit I can see is that armed police arriving at the accident scene may have recognised Garth McVicar as a dangerous lunatic and pumped him full of lead.

  10. Tiger Mountain 10

    “Lead poisoning” will likely become an increasing cause of death for NZ citizens if the police are fully armed. The prospect is worrying because:
    • currently training for those coppers regularly tooled up is for torso shots, not extremities, so death is highly likely to result when a gun is produced and fired by an NZ blue belly.
    • Police culture change moves slowly to state the obvious, guns will be used as a short cut to negotiation or observation and conversation with the community
    • Taser and pepper were meant to be alternatives to lethal force in dangerous situations but seem to be used more as compliance or summary punishiment devices, so what would NZ police officers do if actually armed?

    • KJT 10.1

      How many innocent people, or very minor crims, get killed by guns in the USA compared with gun toting criminals?

      I seem to remember about 11 to 1.

      If there is an unsecured gun in the household the biggest risk is not to criminals, but to other family members.

      Similarly, with armed police we will have a much increased risk to innocent bystanders.

      My own, admittedly subjective, experience says that having more mature police officers, will do more to cut down assaults, on police, than being armed.
      19 is way too young to have that sort of responsibility.

    • prism 10.2

      Tiger Mountain
      You sound well informed. These points must be considered. The standard of policing must be kept high, as bad practices once entrenched are as hard to eradicate as a herpes virus. These remain dormant and then break out in an ugly eruption.

  11. muzza 11

    More smoke and mirror diversions….

    Still no real solutions to the root cause of the escalating problems in society, of the key systems.

    Can anyone say, outcome control!

  12. PunditX 12

    The police are already armed. There is a program currently being rolled out to put a bushmaster rifle and a Glock pistol in every car..

    • Tiger Mountain 12.1

      Sure Pundit, but they still have to retrieve the shooter from the vehicle, lock box or not which is different to having it on their person. There are a few seconds at least extra time before blowing someone away, unless they just keep the weapons handy regardless of regulations. What about training? what depth of training can several thousand coppers expect to receive given the woeful performance of the likes of Constable Abbott and others including AOS members when set loose with a gun.

    • Murray Olsen 12.2

      Detectives have been armed for at least 30 years. The Police are armed, they just don’t want people to know they are.
      Given the way they already use batons, pepper spray and tasers for summary punishment, open arming would probably see at least some of them using flesh wounds in the same way. As far as I’m concerned, they need to show a lot more need and a lot more competence to even justify the weapons they have. The AOS is supposed to be an elite unit, but they have little trouble in killing an innocent driver. How often would that happen with guns on all their hips?

      • felix 12.2.1

        “Detectives have been armed for at least 30 years. The Police are armed, they just don’t want people to know they are.”

        Yep, my understanding is that any officer ranked Sgt or above has the option of carrying. At least that’s what a gun-toting Sgt told me ~25 years ago.

    • Colonial Viper 12.3

      There is a program currently being rolled out to put a bushmaster rifle

      A fucking rifle as standard issue?

      What possible situation are you ever ever ever going to want a regular beat cop aiming a rifle 100m down a street at anything. FFS a recipe for fucking tragedy.

  13. PunditX 13

    Viper this is what they have in the car..
    http://www.bushmaster.com/catalog_law_enforcement_index.asp

  14. gnomic 14

    The cops are already armed pretty well surely. As other posts above have mentioned, the d’s carry handguns at their discretion. I seem to recall Ross Meurant sharing that he rarely hopped into the unmarked without a weapon. Not quite the same as every flatfoot packing on the hip admittedly (not that they have flat feet any more rolling in their cruisers). But is arming the police really going to strengthen the thin blue line that saves us from anarchy? However no doubt easier than trying to analyse the causes of criminality and trying to restrain it by peaceful means. And let us never forget that cops need crime. And every kilo of weed causes $11k worth of ‘social harm’. An economist worked that out. Anybody care to commission BERL to find out how much harm is caused by enforcement of stupid laws? Sheesh.

    Alas, no doubt they will eventually get their guns, and further on down the road their electronic sniffers that know what nasty little misdemeanours or felonies you’ve been indulging in. What a wonderful world it will be.

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