Don’t let taser trial be held hostage to push for guns

Recent comments by Police Commissioner Howard Broad that ‘strong forces’ will want Police to carry guns if the current taser trial is unsuccessful raise questions about the integrity of the trial, Green Party Police Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“These comments are very concerning. It seems that tasers are no longer being considered on their own merits, but as a ‘lesser evil’ to guns. By raising the spectre of a Police force armed with guns, Commissioner Broad is suggesting that we should feel grateful if tasers are approved for general use.

“This casts doubt on whether the current taser trial is being conducted in a sufficiently objective manner, as it appears to be a pawn in a larger battle about whether Police should be armed.

“I am alarmed at the strength of the police lobby for more weaponry, couched by Police Association head Greg O’Connor’s statement that the Police, as the ‘coercive arm of the state’, must be able to impose the state’s will on the public. On the contrary, Police power must always be balanced and exercised within recognised guidelines.

“Howard Broad says he is trying to resist this pressure for an armed Police force, and if this is really the case he deserves support. New Zealanders take pride in our less violent style of policing, compared with overseas jurisdictions.

“However, he is mistaken if he thinks the taser will assuage this pressure. It will only serve to further validate a new style of policing where threatening criminals with weapons replaces lower key policing.

“Police Minister Annette King, has so far stood aside from the taser debate, claiming it is an operational matter, but she must now engage with it. Whether our Police force is armed with guns or ‘less lethal’ weapons is a public issue, not one to be left to internal struggles within the Police force,” Mr Locke says.