Frontline police in Christchurch have been told to carry guns until further notice following two incidents in the city during which police were shot at. But more guns are not the answer, argues Emilie Rākete.
Last Saturday, the police say a man fired shots at a patrol car in Christchurch. Then on Tuesday, after a shootout, he was arrested and hospitalised in critical condition. The police say they’re still looking for another person, who they claim is connected to these two incidents. As a result of this, the police have told media that every single frontline police officer in Christchurch is authorised to carry firearms until further notice.
Before we address the specifics of this situation, we should look at the general context. Injuries reported by police on the job are in decline as of last year. With 467 injuries reported in 2017, and a frontline staff muster of around 8000, being a frontline police officer was around three times less dangerous than working in agriculture, forestry, or manufacturing, and only slightly more dangerous than being an admin worker. Police report being injured at work at almost half the national average across all industries. Rates of assault against police have been declining for years too, since their peak in 2009. Deaths at work are tragic, but this year will fortunately be the tenth anniversary of the last time a police officer in New Zealand was the victim of homicide.