No cops, anywhere, should have guns. That much is simple. But it would take major upheaval to remove weapons from the militarized police forces that exist in certain places overseas. In those places, disarming the police seems near* impossible.
But it’s not impossible here.
In 2019, Police Commissioner Mike Bush announced that the New Zealand police would trial armed patrols in Christchurch, Waikato, and Manukau. Those trials ended in April.
The idea of weaponizing the police really became a part of public conversation in the wake of the Christchurch massacre – a white supremacist act of terror. That these weapons have been used primarily, and in fact almost exclusively, in predominantly Māori and Pacific communities is a failing in our response to this event. Any pride we felt regarding our nationwide outpouring of compassion after March 15 will have been for nothing if we allow this to continue.
Our police don't need guns.
Data has shown that the majority of these armed patrols were used in routine traffic stops. Essentially, police have been roaming around with exciting new toys, with no obvious perpetrators to use them on. Until they find them.
The New Zealand Police have also admitted they are unconsciously biased against Māori, and statistics have overwhelmingly borne out the notion that Māori are at higher risk of police violence. More guns in the hands of cops will lead to more Māori being shot at. It’s that plain.
This trial was implemented without any community input, without a whisper of democratic process, and without consultation with Māori. The police simply took it upon themselves.
That’s not how a democratic nation is intended to operate, and it’s especially egregious to Māori communities, who, via the Treaty of Waitangi, are expected to be consulted on decisions that will affect them.
New Zealanders do not support the armament of the police, as made obvious by the viral Hashtag #ArmsDownNZ. It’s not something that needs to be trialled, it’s not something that needs to be voted on. It simply needs not happen. Arming police makes de-escalation impossible. We’ve seen in other countries that when weapons are introduced, an ‘arms race’ begins. Tense situations will become shootouts where they otherwise may not have been. We cannot accept that here.
We don’t need more guns in our streets. We don’t need them in the hands of gangs, who will arm themselves if the police are armed. We especially don’t need them in the hands of an organisation that has admitted to racial bias – one that is intended to ‘serve and protect’.
Arming New Zealand’s police force is an outrage, and must be responded to as such. Visit armsdown.nz for more information about this issue, including ways to contact your local MP.
*Demilitarizing the police in certain places overseas seems impossible. Many so-called impossible things have since become reality.Support Villainesse