The safety of police staff is our highest priority and our focus is on providing officers with the tools, training and support they need to do their job safety, Commissioner Peter Marshall said.
He called for “cool heads and calm minds” in the wake of Friday night’s assault in Kawhia in which the sole charge officer Constable Perry Griffin was beaten and stripped of his OC spray, taser and pistol by a group of angry people as he tried to arrest a young man wanted on warrant.
The Commissioner said any assault on an officer doing his or her lawful job was one too many. “It’s not good enough and it should not happen, but putting it perspective, policing is an inherently dangerous job. Our people attend hundreds of calls for assistance every week where an element of violence is present – people have alcohol or drugs in their system, or are simply bad individuals.
Most of the 1.8 million calls received annually for service by our communications centres end with out any real incident, regrettably there are some that end up with our staff being assaulted.
The Commissioner said that: “This is why we have in recent years included the provision of the stab resistant body armour, and the rollout of increased numbers of tasers and firearms into frontline vehicles. This is supported by improved training of tactical tools and support for staff in the use of these tactical options.”
Using a firearm as the primary weapon is not the tactic of choice. Each situation is assessed on its merits starting with communication to de-escalate events. De-escalation is not always possible despite the very best efforts of the police officer or his or her colleagues and this is when other tactical options such as oc spray, the taser and ultimately the firearm can be used.
“While the kinds of attacks seen on officers in recent weeks are thankfully uncommon, they are reflective of the risks that officers sometimes face in the course of doing their duty to keep their community safe.
“The recent spate of serious assaults on police which has left officers bruised, bloodied and with broken bones is a concern.
“Officer safety is a top priority and we take any assault on any officer very seriously. We continually think about how officer safety can be improved. Our officers are trained to assess and manage risk and we provide them with protection including body armour (SRBA and ballistic vests when appropriate), OC pepper spray, batons, the taser and in the most serious of situations they have firearms available to them should they be required.
The use of a firearm as the primary weapon in the Kawhia incident was not appropriate and this was suppported by the Kawhia officer and his supervisors. “This is not a time for political point scoring exercises,” the Commissioner said.
“Unfortunately risk is part of the policing job and can never be eliminated, especially when assaults happen with out warning.
“When officers are assaulted we do review incidents to determine whether there are things we could have done differently or aspects we can learn from. It is too early to comment on what the outcome will be of the debrief into the Kawhia incident – the priority is getting Constable Perry Griffin well.
“I have spoken with Constable Griffin this morning and in his words, he is “keen to get back onto the saddle of the horse as quickly as possible.” He will however receive a few days off first.
“It is important to acknowledge the excellent help Constable Griffin received from a group of local people include local fightfighters and district council staff who were present and responded to the officer’s activation of his call alert button, another new safety innovation. We are grateful for their speedy arrival and their help demonstrates the close cooperation between those in emergency services roles in rural communities.
When it comes to the Kawhia situation, that was cowardly. But what was really encouraging was the immediate response from members of the public, including Kawhia volunteer firies to help a mate who was in trouble.
“I have talked with the senior person from the Kawhia Volunteer Fire Brigade today to thank him and his colleagues.
“Policing isn’t an activity that we can do alone. We all need to work together to ensure there are good levels of safety in the community. Thankfully the public recognises that and time and time again good people come to our assistance to help deal with drunks, thugs and other idiots, as well as helping us with information to assist serious crime including rape and other crimes of violence.
Any community that becomes too frightened to speak out, to know and respect the line between right and wrong, will risk loosing its moral compass and once that seed is planted it is very hard to root out."
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Kaye Calder, Public Affairs, PNHQ, mobile 027 241 6305