New Zealand police already halfway armed, time to become fully armed

Detective Inspector John Price addresses reporters on March 1 following a string of armed incidents.

General arming is coming – it’s halfway here already and the world hasn’t ended. You didn’t even notice, one frontline police officer writes.

OPINION: I graduated with a wooden baton, a set of handcuffs and a desire to make a difference. Now I must wear a stab proof vest in the summer heat, carry pepper spray, a metal baton and a Taser. Why? New Zealand has changed.

In nearly 30 years of policing, guns have gone from a rare find, worthy of high fives in the office, to commonplace. It was a slow creep.

Police already have access to firearms and should be able to access them more easily, one frontline officer writes.

Tinny houses selling pot were once a big thing. Now we issue far more warnings for cannabis offense than prosecutions and instead the big thing is meth – a drug that makes you the worst and most violent version of yourself.

Most of those opposed to arming police fall into three categories: Naive, unrealistic or nostalgic. They don’t live or interact with that side of the tracks.

“Just call the AOS” is nice in theory. But policing is unpredictable, every door knock, every car stop presents danger. We can’t cordon and contain every part of our days.

I must admit listening to “bush experts” saying what police should and shouldn’t do, from people who have and never will put themselves in harm’s way, is a bit hard to swallow.

If seeing a cop with a pistol makes you feel unsafe, try walking up to a car full of gang members who hate you for no other reason than your uniform. You’re not getting punched, kicked, stabbed and put in danger in your job, we are.

General arming is halfway here already and people didn’t notice. Health and safety demands we must protect our staff and the cold fact is we have been an armed police for quite some time. It’s no coincidence we are not being murdered like we were and armed criminals are being shot more often.

The Canterbury arming order only moved the pistol from the car safe to the hip. But that could be vital if you’re caught halfway between your patrol car and a meth psycho’s vehicle when he steps out with a shotgun. Suddenly a gun in the car might as well be at the station.

Those who think we cannot be trusted with firearms probably thought the same thing about Tasers. If you believe a pistol on the hip will make us a version of the worst police force in the United States, you’re clearly not among the nearly 80 per cent of Kiwis who have trust and confidence in us, which is sad.

So to those preaching about my job and safety, maybe ask yourself: “Am I the one in harm’s way? Do cops have the right to go home to their families at the end of their shift? What if that cop was my dad or wife or son or sister?”

I’d love to go back to cotton shirts and a helmet. I’d also like to go back to 30 cent pints and $30 power bills, but that’s not going to happen. General arming of the police won’t change the world, it’s already changed. Time to let the past go.

 * This officer’s identity has been kept anonymous to protect their job.

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