The District Commander has ordered all frontline Canterbury police officers to arm themselves after a street shoot-out in Christchurch, reports Stuff. Police exchanged shots with a 33-year-old man who allegedly opened fire with a shotgun after evading police. Officers shot the man twice in the lower body and he remains in critical condition in Christchurch Hospital. No police officers were reported injured.
Canterbury District Commander Superintendent John Price made the announcement on Tuesday evening. Officers will now be allowed to carry guns on their person permanently, instead of having them stored in their cars. The order is being reviewed daily but remains in place until further notice.
All 12 district commanders have the authority to arm their officers if they deem it necessary. Price said the decision should not be taken lightly but was needed at this time to protect the safety of officers and the public while a second man is sought.
Criminal justice community organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa (PAPA) say the decision to arm Christchurch police officers is dangerous and a calculated effort to expand police powers. “Putting firearms in the hands of police will result in more situations being escalated. This policy will do nothing to keep people safe. It increases the risk of police shootings,” said PAPA Spokesperson Kate McIntyre.
McIntyre said police had a “track record of opting for the most extreme force available to them” when other, less lethal, options were available. In 2018, Auckland man Jerrim Toms was shot and killed by Police after allegedly approaching officers threateningly. The officers had tasers at hand but chose to use deadly weapons instead.
PAPA is concerned this policy is an attempt to achieve full police armament, rather than a justified safety concern. “This decision is an effort to bypass a public conversation about whether or not we actually want every cop to be carrying a gun. It will lead to more shootings by Police.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash said he trusts district commanders to make the best decisions about deployment, resourcing and operational responses and routine arming of police was not on the horizon.