On Monday my friend was searched by armed police when his ferry landed in Auckland. He had been reported as being suspiciously white. The long box that he had contained a telescope.

The ex-serviceman was extremely concerned at the way both the situation and the firearms were handled. Our Police have just faced a huge threat in Christchurch. Were they prepared for that? I would not trust most with a radar gun.

They have shot themselves and each other, both on duty and in training and literally in the foot on more than one occasion. They have accidently shot handcuffed suspects. They have both wounded and killed innocent bystanders.

Just days ago a so called “Panic shot” from a police officer blasted through the window of a community house. Luckily the current meeting was being held downstairs.

Our Police have shot at least ten of their own buildings in the last several years. My favorite was an arms officer who had an accidental discharge inside the Manukau station and still missed it.

Neat trick. The shot went out a window and hit a sign saying ‘Prisoner enquiries’. I wonder if they left the bullet hole there as a warning to visitors?

Police have shot an airport. They have shot a VIP plane. Because a ‘Specialist’ couldn’t unload his Glock pistol. Another left his handgun behind in a parliamentary toilet.

The Police have lost more of their guns than all three wings of the armed services put together.

That is not counting the guns that fall out the back of their vehicles and are returned by good citizens. This is not even rare. Oh and they shoot the cars that the guns fall out of as well.

All this in addition to the Police accidentally discharging their Tasers over five hundred times in just a few years of issue. At a cost of $25,000.00 in cartridges. Oh and they lose Tasers as well.

One was taken by a ‘Juvenile’ who simply removed it from an unsecured lock box in a Police vehicle. The service has also posted videos on their YouTube channel to show where the firearms are located in their regularly stolen vehicles.

Did I mention the missing signal pistol and gas launcher? What about Police leaving over a dozen AR15 rifles on a lawn after a raid? Loaded guns left on desks while interviewing suspects?

Police are now banned from several civilian ranges due to unsafe practices. Including that one where they machine gunned the roof – with people upstairs. Their own ranges also needed to be closed for repair after reports described a staggering number of bullet holes in the roof and walls.

In theory all accidents with police issue guns should be reported. But the number of holes in many stations make a mockery of that. They did have to record the shot fired over people’s heads in the muster room at a Central Police Station.

Police are likewise less than forthcoming with any inquiry regarding their regular mishandling of issue weapons. They seem focused on concealing problems rather than addressing them. Often claiming not to even have the records that the law demands they keep.

This is all a result of appalling training standards. Serving Police have been complaining about both the amount and the quality of their weapons instruction for years.

I am aware that a horrific number of officers overseas have been shot with their own firearms. This was before the introduction of snatch resistant holsters and weapon retention training.

I asked how much of the latter our own officers received. After a delay I was told that they were about to start offering that. Because I asked? Their issue holsters offer no protection either.

Police have told me that they only get a handful of rounds a year to maintain their low standards. But if one cop is hitting the target, then some of their few practice rounds will go to an officer having problems. It is all a bad joke. A dangerous one.

When I had an interview for my own firearms license the inspector was an ex policemen. He mentioned that he had only been shot at once in a long career. But he “Never worked with her again”.

One witness watched a Policeman attempting to shoot a badly injured dog on the side of the road. He had two attempts at shooting the prone dog at a range of two feet, missing both times.

The only reason that he got it the third time was because our hero held the officer’s wrist with one hand and the dog collar with the other.  The Policeman wouldn’t let the civilian do it because he was ‘Not trained’. Despite him being the NZ Service Pistol record holder at the time.

The only excuse offered for this appalling record is that “It’s a difficult job”. Indeed. So train for it. Hunting for an armed terrorist would be, well, terrifying. The least we can do is prepare the men and women brave enough to take this on.

Surely the money that we are now paying in compensation to the victims of Police shootings would be better spent in giving our cops the training they need? That they deserve?

Oh and a great deal of risk can be further mitigated if the justice system starts to do its job. One criminal has been convicted of threatening Police with a firearm on eight separate occasions.

More than fifty have been convicted twice or more of the same offence. Obviously unimpressed with the first penalty they received. The solution is a simple one, lock up our worst offenders for decades at a stretch.

It is the recidivist gangsters usually prompting our Police to arm in the first place. But they must also be capable of confronting the kind of atrocity that the nation has just endured in Christchurch.

 

Mike Loder is an Auckland based campaigner for reform in the sentencing of firearm crime. He has researched internal gun control systems for 25 years.