The assault which left a police officer unconscious in Ngaruawahia overnight highlights the folly of Police moves to rely increasingly on specialists to deal with dangerous incidents, Police Association President Greg O’Connor said today.
“The Ngaruawahia incident highlights that the realities of policing mean we cannot always rely on specialist backup to ‘sort it out’. The officer on the scene has to be trained and equipped to act,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Police have to be able to take immediate action to deal with situations that unfold unexpectedly, and unpredictably. In this latest case, the officer was warned the offender was ‘out of control’, but backup was tied up at a domestic incident, and a dog handler would take time to arrive from Hamilton. Despite that, the officer witnessed the offender assaulting a woman, and had to intervene immediately.
“He was then assaulted himself and knocked unconscious. But for the actions of a bystander, the reality is, the officer could have been killed.
“The officer’s courage in intervening is exactly what New Zealanders expect from our police. But it is unreasonable to expect police to continue to do so without an effective means of defending themselves and others,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The Police Association has looked extensively all around the world for models suitable for the New Zealand environment. We believe the Norwegian model, where every patrol car has a pistol in a lockbox in the centre console, is clearly the most appropriate. Had the officer in Ngaruawahia been able to draw a firearm or Taser and arm himself before exiting the vehicle and confronting the offender, it is extremely unlikely he would have been assaulted and injured as he went to the aid of the victim. Most importantly, the offender would almost certainly have acted differently – a fact often forgotten in the arming debate.
“Once upon a time, the blue uniform itself would provide a layer of relative safety. As these incidents show, those days are gone. It is frankly naïve to cling to a belief that violent offenders will simply drop their fists, or other weapon, and defer to authority.
“Assaults on police are assaults on law and order itself. If the police cannot keep themselves safe, how can we expect the public to have confidence in our ability to protect them?” Mr O’Connor said.