28 Dec 2012

Attack video shows pack mentality - police

7:36 am on 28 December 2012

Police say a group accused of attacking two police officers in Dargaville on Christmas Day had a pack mentality and was trying to pick a fight with churchgoers.

They say one woman used a brick in the attack and tried to fire an officer's taser at him.

Two police officers are recovering after they were attacked by a drunken mob on Christmas Day.

Inspector Tracy Phillips, the Northland area commander, says the initial call at Dargaville came from members of a Brethren Church.

Witnesses said two people in a mob were yelling that the churchgoers would burn in hell, smashing letterboxes, punching walls and challenging them to fight.

Inspector Phillips says when the officers arrived the group turned on them, with one woman attacking an officer with a brick and trying to use his taser on him.

She says video footage from cellphones and a camera attached to the taser shows the group threatening and advancing on the officers.

Seven people were arrested after the incident and three of them were remanded in custody when they appeared in the Whangarei District Court on Wednesday.

The alleged attack was one of four on officers in as many days which have prompted calls for greater arming of police. The three other incidents occurred in Waikato and police say alcohol was involved in all four attacks.

In Waikato on Christmas Day, a policeman was "king hit" from behind as he and another officer confronted drunken partygoers in Huntly.

Two earlier attacks in the region involved a policeman assaulted during a callout to a row over Christmas lights at Matamata on Sunday, and an officer who suffered a broken ankle during a callout over an alcohol-related domestic incident at 12.30am on Saturday.

Increased police access to guns 'not needed'

Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt said calls to arm officers are growing as attacks become more frequent and more serious.

"A lot of our members of the Police Association who are serving police officers are increasingly asking for general arming - which means carriage of firearms on them at all times."

But Justice Minister Judith Collins says police do not need greater access to weapons.

Ms Collins told Radio New Zealand's Summer Report that in the Dargaville assault, an officer could have been killed had an attacker got hold of a gun rather than taser.

She said police are able to take weapons with them if they decide it is the right thing to do, adding the Government's changes to alcohol laws should help prevent similar attacks happening in future.

Police national prevention manager Bruce Bird said officers always face an element of risk in their jobs but the risk is greater when alcohol is involved.

Superintendent Bird said police will come down very heavily on people who assault its staff.