Monday, 18 October 2010

a call for arms

i have a lot of things in my head at the moment, too many to think coherently just now! it has been an interesting weekend, with the labour party conference going well and a significant change in economic direction signalled by phil goff.

i didn't go to the conference this year, the first one i've missed after 6 years of punctual attendance. it felt a bit strange not to be there, but i've needed time out from a few things this year. after feeling overloaded and lost at the end of last year, i've been focusing on reducing my commitments and getting my sanity back. i don't know that i've been particularly successful at either of those: when you pull out of some things, it's funny how other things expand to fill up the space. and as for my sanity, well yes, it's there somewhere, i know it is. i'm sure it will wander back when it's ready.

one thing i was annoyed about at the end of last week was the push by police to have more access to firearms. this was on the basis that 9 officers have died in the course of duty over the last two years. of course one death is a death too many, but neither the police association nor the minister have shown how access to more firearms in a police car would have prevented any of those deaths. one of those shot would have been in napier iirc, when a sniper was shooting randomly from a house. another was a botched operation relating to drugs (again, sorry to be sketchy on details). from what i remember of those 2, i don't think more guns in cars would have helped.

but what really bothers me is that no comparison is being made to the number of people being killed by police. this year alone, 17 people have been killed in car chases. this is a much more serious problem (if measured by number of deaths) yet doesn't seem to be getting the same level of attention by the police. let us remember that there is no offence in nz that is punishable by death. therefore, i can't see how a chase resulting in death can in any way be justified. not to mention the chase puts passengers and innocent bystanders at risk.

frankly, if the police aren't going to be serious about reducing the number of people being killed by them (or if they are being serious about it, be more public in letting us know how this number is going to come down significantly), i certainly don't feel comfortable with them having more killing power. it is not better to replace the number of police officers dying with members of the public dying because they were shot by an armed officer. remember, there is no crime in nz that is punishable by death. and i'm not prepared to make a judgement that one life is worth more than another one. i don't think anyone could fairly make such a judgement.

i don't doubt that the job of a police officer is a difficult one. i accept that officers have the right to be safe when at work. but my objections are simply these: there is no guarantee that the proposed policy will increase safety, and there is a risk that overll more lives will be lost than are saved.

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