Friday, July 31, 2015

The end of the unarmed police force

Since forever, the New Zealand police have been arguing for more and better weapons with which to intimidate the public. And once again, they've got what they want:

New Zealand police will now routinely carry Tasers, it has been announced.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush made the announcement on Friday morning at police headquarters in Wellington.

Bush said all on-duty staff would carry Tasers, a change from the current practice of accessing the weapons from a lockbox in cars.

This is part of an ugly move towards US-style "compliance" policing - you know, the sort that sees black people shot and killed for running away, not running away, putting their hands up, not putting their hands up, lying down while handcuffed... here they'll be using tasers, but the attitude is the same: obey the police immediately, or be subject to brutal electrical torture. Which will fall disproportionately on Maori, the mentally ill, or when police simply want to torture someone for their own convenience or to avoid looking "weak".

And no, this won't reduce police gun use. Fatal shootings by police have increased since they got tasers, because its been paired with increased access to firearms and the US mindset. Its now absolutely routine for New Zealand police to stand around guarding crime scenes with loaded machine guns - and this has a huge impact both on how the public view the police, and on how police view themselves.

The cost of this can be seen in the US: when the police act like a foreign army of occupation on the streets, people treat them as such. Active cooperation, which they need to identify and locate suspects, is replaced with sullen compliance and a refusal to interact unless absolutely necessary (and then, eventually, punishment of collaborators). That's bad for law enforcement, but its not exactly good for us either.