Duncan Garner: Why I don't believe Andrew Coster when he says he wants an unarmed police service

Opinion 10/06/2020

OPINION: The AM Show host, Duncan Garner.

The headline reads like this - 'police dump the idea of having fully-armed response teams after a six-month trial'.

Very clever - good PR - but it's largely semantics. I'll tell you why shortly.

For a start, who knew this was going on?

It all started under the former commissioner, Mike Bush. It was seen as a next step towards arming our police officers.

The trial took place in areas of high gun crime, places like south Auckland, but it's been quickly quashed by the new Commissioner, Andrew Coster.

But I agree with the Police Association. The concept of this was poorly communicated with the public.

If the public is going to buy into this, we have to be told, 'take us with you' - don't surprise us. Especially on guns.

The idea was for police in communities where gun crime is common to have more tactical options, to have fully-prepped officers armed ready for action.

What these communities got were cops turning up in what the Police Association says were vehicles that looked 'pretty sinister'. There's your failure.

No wonder communities gave the one-finger salute when it came to feedback.

So Coster has dumped the idea, but what he says next I believe is simply not true.

"I am committed to us being a generally unarmed police service", he says.

Pull the other one, Commissioner - do you even believe yourself?

Truth is, police carry guns in police cars, a bushmaster rifle in the boot and a glock pistol under the seat. If they need it, they use it.

If they're going to a scene they know is volatile and guns, drugs, violence and gangs are involved, they arm up and they are ready. The crooks know this.

We also have the Armed Offenders Squad. We have it right in New Zealand. I think on the whole, our police force is impressive. It ain't broken, there's nothing to fix.

I don't want to see police with guns on their hips at the local mall. No thank you. And by this decision, we won't.

But make no mistake - if they want a gun, it's never far away.