Key pushes police access to Tasers

BY MARTIN KAY
Last updated 13:02 14/10/2010

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Prime Minister John Key says he wants police to have more ready access to Tasers in a bid to head off a possible drift towards more officers being routinely armed with guns.

Mr Key said he supported moves by Police Minister Judith Collins and Commissioner Howard Broad to put firearms in all police cars, where they would be kept in locked cabinets.

But he also suggested he was uncomfortable with what appears to be a slow drift towards police having easier access to firearms outside of stations, and he would draw the line at all officers carrying guns on their hips.

''I've supported the [guns in cars] moves because they come from the recommendations of he commissioner of police, and I think he's always had a good sense of that balance between making sure that the police have the necessary equipment to defend themselves and to react to situations that evolve before them, while on the same side ensuring that we don't get into some sort of arms race, which actually I'm not sure would help police officers.

''Personally, I prefer Tasers, because they're a non-lethal option ... increasing use of them, I think, or increasing access to them is a good idea and the Government's been supporting that and through the budgets we've been rolling our grater accessibility to Tasers.''

The 50,000 volt stun guns were introduced after a year-long trial in four police districts that ended in September 2007.

The Government has funded the deployment of 720 Tasers, which are presently available to officers on a case-by-case basis.

Around 3500 officers will be trained to use them over the next three years as part of a $10 million Taser package in the 2010 Budget.

LOCK-BOX MOVE CRITICISED

Meanwhile the Maori Party has reacted angrily to Police Minister Judith Collins' support for locked gun cabinets in every police car, saying she has "acted in haste".

"The police have not even completed their report on the idea and already the Minister has jumped the gun," said Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell.

He also took issue with the Police Association view that putting guns in every police car was a "minimum step".

"To the contrary, we see the introduction of mass rollout of guns in police cars as an extreme action; which rapidly elevates our position along the continuum of indicators of violence."

"... I see this latest utterance by the Police Minister as a backward step and it worries us greatly, what message is sent to our children, when we rely on weapons as our universal response to conflict.

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"My fear is that by normalising the use of guns, we lower the bar about what is an appropriate threshold for responding to problems; making guns the weapons of first resort, rather than say increasing competency in techniques of calm and restraint, of dialogue and negotiation."

The statement came despite Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples indicating on Wednesday that he was comfortable with the ideas of guns locked in cabinets in police car.

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