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Armed police patrols will cause American-style shootings

The Police Commissioner's announcement that squadcars of officers with automatic rifles will patrol New Zealand's streets is dangerous and unnecessary, according to the criminal justice community organisation People Against Prisons Aotearoa. The group says the plan ignores the fact that violence against police is at a historical low, and that the rates of police violence against Māori have been worsening for years.

"Mike Bush is pushing a plan to drastically escalate police access to force without any public oversight. This plan does not reflect any need for increased police safety measures," says Emilie Rākete, spokesperson for People Against Prisons Aotearoa. "Data released to us under the Official Information Act show that firearms are involved in less than one percent of alleged assaults on police. This rate has been in decline from as far back as the police have recorded. It has never been safer to be a police officer in this country, this plan to leave almost 300 armed cops roaming our neighborhoods will not make anybody safer."

People Against Prisons Aotearoa are also concerned about the implications of increased police use of firearms for cases where force is used by the police.

"Police have shot and killed more New Zealanders in the last 20 years than they did in the 80 years before that. Māori are currently eight times more likely to be the victims of police violence than Pākehā. Most concerningly, the racial disproportionality of police violence is actually getting worse. Every year, Māori become more and more likely to be subjected to police brutality," says Rākete. "The Police Commissioner's plan to put more guns in poor and Māori neighbourhoods will lead to even more Māori being killed at the hands of police.”

“We know what happens when frontline officers have guns in their hands. We have seen the consequences of a militarized police force in the USA. In a high risk situation, all it takes is a phone or a wallet in a brown hand and our police will shoot to kill. New Zealanders don’t want our policing to follow the lead of failed approaches overseas. This plan is irresponsible, unnecessary, and will lead to racist violence."

People Against Prisons Aotearoa is concerned about the use of the Christchurch attacks as political justification for a long-standing and unrelated policing agenda.

“Commissioner Bush is making a gross misrepresentation of the facts when he claims that the police’s “operating environment has changed” because of white supremacist terror. He seems to have forgotten that on the first of March this year, Superintendent John Price issued instructions for the general arming of Canterbury police officers. The general arming of police officers prior to March 15 had nothing to do with the white supremacist terror attacks, and it certainly didn’t prevent them.”

“When you have people tasked with patrolling poor neighbourhoods with guns, they’re going to find a justification for themselves. Treating the neighborhoods of the socially deprived like a warzone is entirely counter-productive to having safe communities. If Mike Bush is truly concerned about violence on our streets, he should start with the overwhelming rate of police violence against unarmed Māori.”

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