Attacks on police lead to call for arms

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 27/12/2012
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A witness to a brutal attack on two police constables thought the officers were going to be killed and contemplated driving a car through the melee to save them.

The assault in Dargaville on Christmas Day was one of four attacks on five police officers in four days that have reignited calls from the Police Association to arm officers with guns.

In the Dargaville assault an officer was beaten unconscious and had his Taser taken from him.

"This holiday time has emphasised again the increasing danger faced by the staff," said Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt.

"Increasingly, members are calling for general arming. And we know, amongst the staff ... more and more are leaning toward general arming as well."

However, Whangarei area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips said had the Taser in the Dargaville assault been a gun, the result could have been "very different".

The officer was attacked after being called to a church where two men had told churchgoers they were "going to hell" and damaged property.

He found the men at an address where about 20 people were drinking.

"The people started firing up and the officer used his pepper spray," Ms Phillips said.

"I believe a child, about 9 or 10, was caught up in the crossfire and that fired them up even more. It all turned to custard. It was a brutal attack."

A second policeman arrived, and the officers were surrounded by "what was described as wild animals trying to attack antelope".

"[The crowd] tried to trip up the officers and get them on the ground. That's when one of them pulled out a Taser and told them to stay back. They kept circling the officers."

A witness told Ms Phillips that one officer was repeatedly beaten while lying unconscious on the floor.

"The witness told me he thought [the policeman] was dead.

"He wanted to drive his car into the crowd to break them up because he thought they were going to kill the police officers. They were on top of him on the ground and punching him in the head and pelvis."

It is believed a woman grabbed the Taser as the officer lay unconscious on the ground, but failed to set it off.

Ms Phillips said the outcome could have been very different if the officer had been armed.

"I don't know what would have happened [if he'd been armed] but firearms are easier to use than Tasers."

Three people have been remanded in custody - one charged with escaping custody, and a man and woman both charged with injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Ms Phillips said both officers had been discharged from hospital but were "shaken up".

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Also shaken up was a policeman who was king hit from behind after being set upon by a "large intoxicated mob" on Christmas Day in Huntly while attending a boy racer complaint about 10pm.

Two police officers found the driver of the car at an address nearby, where a party was in full swing. A separate party was going on at the address behind and several drunk people were milling around.

When the 17-year-old resisted arrest, a crowd from both parties converged on the patrol car. A man then ran at one of the officers and king hit him from behind, knocking him to the ground.

The second officer activated a safety alarm to call for backup, while the "dazed" policeman managed to get into the patrol car. The officer was treated for grazes and a cut above one eye and is recovering at home.

Two other police have also been attacked - a policewoman, who had her ankle broken while attending a domestic incident in the Waikato region, and another, who was attacked by a drunk mother and son in Matamata.

Western Waikato area commander Inspector Paul Carpenter called the actions of the Huntly crowd "cowardly" and said further arrests were likely.

All of the attacks on police officers involved people who had been consuming alcohol.

Superintendent Bruce Bird said a strong message needed to be sent out to drunk people who carried out cowardly attacks.

"To people out there who want to assault our staff, we'll arrest you and put you in front of the courts. And we'll look at the people who incite them to commit those offences as well."

He would not comment on whether police should be armed, but said the training officers received in using pepper spray, batons and Tasers was very good.

- The Dominion Post

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