Thursday, July 15, 2010

Police and guns II

Last night's Campbell Live [video] saw one of the most disingenuous performances from a Minister I have seen in a long time, with Police Minister Judith Collins proclaiming that she did not want to see police regularly carrying guns as an unarmed police force was a key part of our kiwi identity, while pushing for a policy - carrying guns in every police vehicle, with police given carte blanche to carry them whenever they feel it is appropriate - that would result in exactly that. Collins' big line was that she trusted the police's judgement on when it was appropriate to carry guns. I don't. Listening to Howard Broad and Greg O'Connor, it is clear the police have an agenda here of moving towards a more militarised force. And its time we put our foot down and said "no". Contrary to Collins, the broad outlines of police firearms policy are not an operational decision - they are a political one. The police work for us, and they should do so on our terms. Instead, on this issue and others, they seem to want to act as a law unto themselves.

Meanwhile, the Herald introduces some numbers into the debate, by pointing out how many police cars have already been modified to carry firearms. Unfortunately, the police don't know (or rather, won't tell us) how many times they actually do carry guns, but the numbers from the Auckland district are fairly reassuring: only two sergeants' cars permanently carry firearms. Also reassuring is how often those guns are issued: 194 times in two years, or about twice a week. The number is low because frontline officers need to seek permission, and meet with the appropriate vehicle. Remove those constraints and we'll see the number explode.

(As for the number of cars with gun safes, charitably its to provide operational flexibility and ensure that senior officers are not tied to any particular vehicle. Less charitably, the police are preparing for an armed force, and are spending our money to do so. The Herald's Dickison and Chang might want to dig into that if they can...)

And OTOH, there's clear evidence that police are already using their guns too often. Watch the news: every time you see a serious crime, there's a police officer "guarding the crime scene" carrying a machine gun. That's intimidating and completely unnecessary, but clearly police policy. its time we laid down the law and told them it has to stop. The police work for us, and they should not be standing over us with machine guns. Ever.