Officer assaults must be deterred

Officer assaults must be deterred

Howard Broad, Police Commissioner

Three attacks on police officers in three days have highlighted an ongoing concern.
 
General assaults on officers have gradually increased over the last ten years, and serious assaults have increased notably in last three years.
 
Two of the three recent assaults were particularly horrible, with one officer beaten unconscious and another having his lip bitten off. I am also concerned that two incidents involved group attacks against the officers.
 
I am grateful the officers survived, and I think of their families who will be deeply distressed.
 
While I have confidence the justice system will deal emphatically with the offenders, I support any move to deter this kind of offending against our staff.
 
Tougher penalties is one option we are exploring on behalf of the Police Minister, especially for offences in the middle of the scale. Current penalties for offences at the most serious and minor ends of the scale seem appropriate - the worst perpetrators of grievous bodily harm face up to 14 years in prison. But we will look closely at offences in the mid-range, and also those involving a weapon or where people attack as a group. Anyone who picks up a weapon or joins in an attack has made a deliberate decision, and they should face additional consequences.
 
We are also considering whether officers should have faster access to firearms, possibly by keeping them in locked boxes in the boot of police cars. That's a decision we have yet to make.
 
Officer safety is a priority for Police and we continually think about how it could be improved. We train officers to manage risk and provide them with protection including body armour, pepper spray, an updated baton and now Taser. But risk is part of the job and can never be eliminated.
 
I take heart from the waves of support that have come to the three assaulted officers from all parts of the community. Despite a hard core of antisocial and violent people, the vast majority of New Zealanders have high levels of trust and confidence in police and that support is very welcome.