New Police Minister Must Face Toughest Political Test
The new Police Minister Poto Williams is preparing for a test that will define her political career; a Royal Commission that could conclude there were fundamental failings in the Police Department and could expose attempts at misdirection over those failings.
Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand (SSANZ) President, Neville Dodd, says many members believe Police erred in giving Tarrant his licence, and this was due to the Police’s surreptitious changes in funding and operation of the licensing system.
“Our members are frustrated and furious that the Government directed onto them the public horror at Tarrant’s murders. They are convinced that the real reason Tarrant had a licence and firearms lies with the Police mismanagement of a licensing system that had been working well.
“If the Royal Commission confirms that Police screwed up, this Minister will need to explain why Police made the error, what changed in the licensing system that caused it, when the Government knew, and why it carried on with unrelated firearm bans and laws.”
Dodd says SSANZ members think the licensing system had been made unreliable by shortcuts taken in Police administration and use of licensing system funding for other projects.
“Police have taken over much of the teaching from community volunteers and dumped experienced local vetting staff and arms officers who knew their communities.
“We know they were disestablishing hundreds of local jobs to replace them with “on-line” licensing processes, to be run from a centre of around 30 people in Kapiti.
“Our members say Police have been diverting funds budgeted for firearms vetting and control for years, just as they were found to have been misapplying road safety fund allocations.”
Dodd says the findings, and the Government’s response, will dictate the shape of firearm community relations for years to come.
“Opportunist Police demonised us, and the Government joined in, confiscating our legal property with inadequate compensation. If the Royal Commission confirms the original fault lay with Police, then this attempt at diversion will have been at a high price: the loss of our world-renowned community trust and responsibility model of firearm control.
“The Minister should act decisively; demand dismissal of any those in Police who were responsible for misleading New Zealanders, and immediately remove Police control of the Arms Act,” Dodd says.
Dodd notes that a finding against Police management of the licencing would make it the second incident resulting in death. In 2009 Police failed to follow up on Jan Molenaar and around 20,000 others whose licenses had expired but they were not checked on whether they had sold their firearms.