13 Dec 2010

Top officer pledges greater access to firearms

9:08 pm on 13 December 2010

Police Commissioner Howard Broad says he will ensure that front-line staff have greater access to firearms.

Police have been working on a recommendation for several months and made a presentation to Police Minister Judith Collins at Parliament on Monday.

Ms Collins says she is in favour of officers being able to use their discretion to access firearms more freely when they believe the risk requires it.

However, Ms Collins says she is not in favour of the general arming of all police at this stage.


Mr Broad says police want to have firearms in locked boxes in patrol cars and cited the example of an officer seriously injured following a machete attack near Taihape at the weekend.

Senior Constable Bruce Mellor, 57, was working on his own and attacked from behind after stopping a stolen car while on a routine patrol. He suffered extensive facial injuries and lost part of one hand in the attack on Saturday morning.

Two people, aged 14 and 18, have appeared in court charged with assault. Police say more charges are likely.

Senior Constable Mellor did not have access to a firearm, but had pepper spray, a stab-proof vest and a baton.

Mr Broad says if the changes are made, it is likely rural officers would have firearms in their patrol cars.

"We will be taking the firearms out of the station and into cars. It will still be left to the judgement of the individual officer to make an assessment of the risks and the nature of the threat as to when it is appropriate to carry the firearm.

"We will be giving guidance and training to assist them with this decision."

Prime Minister John Key says the Government will move to make police officers safer, but is not convinced that access to firearms will resolve all the current problems.

The locked firearm boxes could be in patrol cars by mid-2011.

Officers support move

Gisborne officer Nigel Hendrikse was badly hurt when stabbed on patrol 17 years ago and wants police armed, as they need to be able to protect themselves if they are to protect the public.

Another officer attacked while on lone patrol, Craig Blakey, says attacks can happen at random when least expected and officers may need to be armed to guard against this.

The Police Association believes most patrols should be done by two officers, but where this is impracticable, the lone officer should have a gun on his hip.