Should our police officers be allowed to wear side arms?

By Tema Hemi

Should our police officers be allowed to carry sidearms?

Police Association President Chris Cahill has raised the issue again following the latest incident where two officers were held at gunpoint by an offender who also stole their police unit in the Whanganui region. 

Criminal activity is on the rise putting police officer lives at further risk. 

Cahill says, "Six months from March this year there's been 179 incidents of offenders presenting firearms at either members of the public or police. So it's getting really dangerous out there."

Last year, a similar incident occurred where a convicted gang member shot at three police officers on the outskirts of Morrinsville with a semi-automatic rifle before going on the run. On Saturday night, a convicted Black Power member held two police officers at gunpoint during a routine pull over in Ohakune.

Cahill also says, "Crackdown on these gang members that are arming themselves. In-fighting and gang warfare that's erupting with the increased number of gang members. And police are responding to that."

After the Christchurch mosque attacks, all officers were carrying a Glock 17 pistol in their holsters and had a Bushmaster M4 semi-automatic rifle in each police car. But New Zealanders are still very uneasy about the issue. 

One elderly male says, "I don't think that New Zealand is a place where I'd like to see that." 

A Wellington woman says, "Personally no, I think that they have access to that in the back of their cars I believe and I think the more cops that are wearing sidearms and there's a correlation of violence."

A man in his twenties says, "Have you ever travelled to America? You see like the guys at the airport there with guns on, it's really weird."

An elderly Māori woman says, "I just think it will escalate the situation and I just don't think that a really good thing in society."

Last week Police Minister Stuart Nash marked the installation of the 500th fog cannon under a programme to deter aggravated robberies. Since the programme started, there has been a 40% drop in aggravated robberies. 

Nash says, "Dairy owners were at great risk. There were a spate of robberies, spate of injuries and people weren't feeling safe. It's also part of our roll out of 1800 more police that we'll strive to deliver over three years but the important thing is, this isn't the only thing police do to help dairy owners, and liquor store owners and those affected by crime."

"There's been a focus on amending our firearms law to try and get some of these firearms out of the hands of criminals," Cahill said. 

Cahill says 72% of police officers feel the need to be armed and most officers do carry weapons within their units.

Officers also recognise that the issue is confronting for most of the general public.