The New Zealand Herald reported on a survey it conducted which found that nearly two-thirds of New Zealanders feel that only the Armed Offenders Squad should have guns, not ordinary police officers. Apparently, the Herald found this to be a huge surprise. I don’t.
Part of the Herald’s surprise is based on a 2008 poll that supposedly found half of New Zealanders wanted police to be armed. That poll was of highly dubious value, as I said at the time. Nearly all the evidence to date suggests that the Herald poll is a far better indicator of public attitude than that dodgy 2008 poll.
The head of the police union thinks it’s inevitable that police will be armed, but the Police Minister is planning no changes. That’s as it should be. With the police union admitting that police are not the reason criminals are carrying guns and other weapons, arming cops would do nothing to protect them, but would do a great deal to change New Zealand—including ensuring that criminals do start arming themselves against police.
There are many good reasons to leave police unarmed, and this poll result shows one of them: The New Zealand public doesn’t support a change. Union officials can ignore public sentiment, but politicians can’t. Personally, I agree with the majority in the Herald poll: Right now, things should stay as they are.