Friday, October 27, 2006

Against an armed police force

When the police launched their taser trial, civil libertarians warned it was the thin edge of the wedge towards an armed police force. Now, with Police Commissioner Howard Broad effectively saying give us tasers, or give us guns, it seems that they were right.

Just to see how dangerous Broad's suggestion is, let's look at what it would actually involve. Currently, the use of firearms by the New Zealand police is highly restricted. While they are available, officers do not routinely carry firearms in the line of duty, and they are typically only seen when the Armed Offenders Squad are called out. And even in those circumstances, they can only be used when lives are actually in danger. Contrast this with the taser: if adopted, it would fill the same role as pepper spray - as a "less than lethal" weapon which can be used to subdue violent and aggressive suspects (and, judging by actual police practice, to "induce compliance" in those who talk back - which is a good reason why we should not trust them with those weapons). Note that the circumstances under which tasers can be used are significantly wider than those in which firearms are allowed - so if Broad is taken seriously, what is actually being proposed is a significant loosening of restrictions on firearms. For example, it would allow the police to use firearms on bottle-throwing youths, or against angry drunks in bars (and of course to threaten to use them to ward off such circumstances - thus instituting a culture of routine threats to use lethal force against the citizens they are supposed to be protecting). This would not just be a move towards an armed police force - it would be a move towards US-style policing in which the use of lethal force was completely normalised. And I do not believe that that is something which New Zealanders - other than the authoritarian freaks in the Police Association - want to see.

It's also questionable whether such a move (or the move to introduce tasers) is actually necessary. While much has been made of the fact that there were over 2000 assaults against police last year, statistics from their latest annual report [PDF] tell their own story:

While "Crimes Act assaults" (its a question of which law the offence is prosecuted under, not necessarily of seriousness) have risen significantly in the last year, overall assaults have risen only slowly in the last ten (which you'd expect, given that it will be strongly correlated with population and the number of police). Meanwhile, the number of assaults with weapons - the stat you would look at in judging whether the police need to be more heavily armed - has remained fairly stable. Like so much to do with crime statistics, it seems to be mostly a matter of misperception, fearmongering, and outright political spin than any real need.


I think the move to American style policing is ineffitable (sp?)and actually wanted by the general populace. I for one is mightly sick and tired of the lawlessness on the streets today (especially here in South Auckland).

I would vote for the party who armed the police, doubled their effective numbers and put them back on the beat with real powers to detain suspects.

One thing we miss here and what we see in Australia, Canada and the USA is police cruising the local roads. Heavy in number to create a physical presence in the neighbourhood.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 05:47:00 AM

In Wellington you can't move for cop cars in suburbs and CBD. I haven't been in Auckland for a long time though, so it may be different there, although I find that hard to believe.

In terms of the number of assaults on police, I find this really dubious given the tendency of the police to lay assault charges on activists to prempt assault charges against them.

Meaning, that police have a long and proud history of breaking arms, causing serious muscle damage, or giving concussion - and then charging the activist with assault to add insult to their injuries.

I assume this pattern is also reflected in more general policing, and is also less likely to be contested.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 08:02:00 AM

See mainly traffic cars not police in beat cars. Even these are vitually all on motorway patrols.

No foot patrols at all.

Anon, What are your expectations when on activism duty? To stage a sitin / protest and when lawfully asked to move on, the police not to do anything?

No cause and effect?

Maybe the activist need to publish a score card on injuries just like the police one!

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 08:41:00 AM

What the police should or should not do in response to political activism is a distraction from the real point relevant to this discussion, ie that the assault numbers used by police as justification for demanding more weapons are totally bogus. Contrary the popular conception, legally "assault" means nothing more than displaying the intention of carrying out unwelcome physical contact; it doesn't mean the police were even actually touched, let alone hurt, and police claims about the intentions of the alleged assaulters are highly dubious in many cases.

The best way to reduce crime is to reduce poverty, not to give more guns to a gang of raping thugs.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 10/27/2006 12:04:00 PM


Strong stuff.

How much should the police do in your opinion?

Gently asking you to move on and if you dont turn away?

Seems only activist want police unarmed. Me, arm them to the teeth and give them real power, along with a education campaign to promote what the laws are that the police will enforce.

Seems a shortcoming in our eduction system that teaching what is legal is not even on the curriculum.

Then we may have respect for the police in having to carry out a shit job.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 01:06:00 PM

"A gang of raping thugs". Oh God. So we move effortlessly here in CMT's own little world from one case to smearing the entire police force. Ahh, the self-righteousness of the eternal revolutionary.

Becuase I'm not:

First on the scene of traffic accidents; First to epsiodes of domsestic violence; One who has to deal with drunken idiots; the one who has to tell families about loved ones' deaths; one who has to wade through swamps and sift through trash for evidence; one who has to suffer abuse from smug liberals; etc, etc...

I have a lot of respect for the NZ police. They have to deal with least savory aspects of our society, and I'm not going to belittle that in pursuit of leftie kudos. If they want tasers, they should have them.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 03:30:00 PM

Funny you should mention shortcomings in our eduction system. The overwhelming majority of prison inmates were failed by our education system and dropped out of school early. Perhaps it would be better to spend a bit more on equipping our schools to help those who are struggling, instead of on more cops and prisons? Though in many cases, the root of the problem is at home; ensuring that all families have access to decent housing, food, clothing, and medical care, and allowing primary caregivers time to actually give care, would do a lot to lift performance at school.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 10/27/2006 03:35:00 PM

Not funny at all but a serious problem. Answers more money, more money. How much would you throw at it? Bearing in mind that for every tax recipient there has to be a tax payer.

Your about an answer to

"How much should the police do in your opinion?

Gently asking you to move on and if you dont turn away?"

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 03:46:00 PM

Thanks Gerritt, there you have what the right really want, a police state where everywhere you look you see the threat of police action against the populace.

More & better armed police is an indication that society is failing itself. Better education, less poverty and more opportunities to share the wealth will lower crime and reduce the need for police.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 04:59:00 PM

So what would you have the police do? Nothing?

Answer the question please

"How much should the police do in your opinion?

Gently asking you to move on and if you dont turn away?"

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 05:23:00 PM

I'm withholding judgment on whether most of our police force are really jumped-up power-hungry vicious wankers on an ego trip; many if not most of them are probably not.

Some of them are.

Having watched eight police officers beating a man who was lying on the ground within a hundred metres of a thousand people in Wellington Stadium once at a cricket game - to be fair, not all of them were actually engaged in the beating, four or five were just restraining him using an appropriate level of force (he was not cooperating but was neither acting violently). Of course, they weren't doing anything to stop the assault their colleagues were perpetrating.
Actions that are never appropriate for police officers to take, that I witnessed on this occasion:
- Lifting people up by the ears, and then dropping them onto concrete
- Deliberately breaking their fingers. Fingers do not bend that way naturally.
- Stomping on the hand afterwards

After a couple of minutes they dragged him out to the concourse and sent an officer down to deal with the multiple complaints.

They behave this way in full view of hundreds of people, and we should give them guns?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/27/2006 10:11:00 PM


Were any of the police who beat the man women?

Posted by Muerk : 10/28/2006 10:13:00 AM

muerk: I don't believe so, no.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/28/2006 11:54:00 AM