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Police one step closer to being armed full-time

Wednesday 13 Oct 2010 6:03 p.m.

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By Patrick Gower

Police guns will no longer be locked away in the station – they’ll be out on the streets.

The Government has given its support to guns being carried in lock-boxes, in every frontline car.

Officers are likely to wear holsters full-time, so they’re ready to load and draw.

A number of police officers have been shot doing their jobs, where offenders had guns and they did not.

Now, the Government wants to see that changed.

“I think it’s very important we give our police the power to use their discretion, because they are on the ground. They have to make a decision on what they know,” says Police Minister Judith Collins.

She wants gun “lock-boxes” in every car.

They will hold up to two Glock pistols and two bushmaster rifles.

Ms Collins says the change is likely to occur “relatively soon”.

“It’s probably a matter of months,” she says.

Police guns are currently kept at the station or in the car’s of some senior officers.

Police have 1085 Bushmasters and 1613 Glocks. They’ll be shifted out to over 2700 cars.

“It’s not a victory, it’s an acceptance that nine police officers shot in two years is unacceptable,” says Police Association spokesman Greg O’Connor.

But the father of a police officer shot on duty in South Auckland says it’s not enough.

“They’re locked in the cars,” says David Snow, whose son Constable Jeremy Snow was shot three times as he and a colleague approached a car with its hazard lights flashing.

“By the time you go to the car and get a key out, unlock the gun, the situation is over and it’s all too late.”

Ms Collins doesn’t want police carrying guns in shopping malls or at schools. So while police on the beat won’t be routinely armed, they’ll likely wear empty holsters.

“Members need holsters. If there’s going to be lockboxes in the car, it’s go to be immediate access,” says Mr O’Connor.

Ms Collins is unapologetic to those who appose police having more access to guns.

“The law abiding community wouldn’t have any problem at all supporting the New Zealand police keeping safe,” she says.

“Those who don’t support New Zealand police being safe… actually I don’t care what they think.”

The real debate here is about whether police should be armed all the time. Ms Collins hasn’t gone all the way, but it’s a significant step in that direction and a signal that New Zealand’s history of an un-armed police force may soon be just that.

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