Sunday, October 10, 2010

Police work

This year some 14 young people have died on NZ roads as a result of high speed car chases - with a police car as the one that's doing the chasing.

Young people don't understand - or so it seems to me - that if you do something dangerous in real life you may wind up dead. And dead is for good. Young people have a sense that they're bullet-proof, indestructible. After all that's what it's like when they're playing video or computer games, so that's what it must be like in real life, isn't it?

But it seems to me that the police aren't much better. They might get some specific training in relation to high speed chases, but when it comes down to it, they're taking just as much of a risk as the youngsters. And don't expect any security if you're on the same road as either of them when there's a high speed chase involved. An older couple, still fit and active, were killed after a youngster drove into their car during one of these chases in Christchurch. A grandmother in the North Island was killed in a similar way.

I understand the police have a duty to try and stop dangerous drivers, but plainly this isn't a method that's working well. It seems to me there's a good deal less danger involved if the police pull back from the chase; there's no 'fun' for the young people if no one's chasing them.

Which brings me to the issue of stun guns or tasers as they're generally called here. At the moment they're the kind of substitute for real guns for the police working in the ordinary course of duties (as opposed to those who are trained in high risk armed offenders situations). Once again they're pushing the limits of what NZ police need to do. I understand that stun guns/tasers have a certain value - in the general course of events no one gets killed and that's a plus - but we've already seen some iffy use of them (especially in one overseas news report where a policeman kept on firing his taser at a perpetrator, even though the man had obviously got the message.

And now there's talk of ordinary everyday policemen being able to carry firearms on a more regular basis. Is this what we want for New Zealand? We' ve survived all this time without armed constabulary. Do we want to go down that road?
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