All Frontline cops will soon be armed with a tasers while they are on duty, enhancing the safety of both communities and police staff.
The announcement was made yesterday at the Wellington police headquarters by Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
The current rule states that frontline officers can have access to tasers from a lockbox in police vehicles, and use it when required.
The new implementation, however, will now low trained level-one responders (over 5,000 police are trained for this) to have tasers with them at all times.
The initiative has already been implemented, but reports say that it will take a few months before staff can actually carry the 50,000 volt tasers.
Police commissioner Mike Bush said that while there may be risks to go with carrying tasers, it is the “right thing to do,” and that tasers “do prove a really good deterrent.”
“It’s far better than having to use a firearm which is very much a last resort,” he explained.
Auckland University senior nursing lecturer Dr Tony O’Brien urged caution around the new rule, highlighting that it was more likely a taser will be used in cases where someone had mental illness. “Our concern is to have enough protections in place to see that that doesn’t happen on a wider scale,” he said.
“Especially with people in mental health crisis – understanding that communication is the way to approach people. I say this knowing that the police do accept that. But they also say ‘well we’re not mental health specialists’, and there are difficulties for them,” O’Brien said. “But what it’s about is that I think there’s a danger with the number of tasers that are going to be available that there will be creep, in terms of the threshold, and that police will be more ready to use a taser.”
Police Association president Greg O’Connor called the initiative “courageous,” explaining that tasers are less lethal than having to result to firearms.
Police will purchase new tasers–between 400 and 600–using police budget (today, police have access to about 1,000 tasers). The purchase would cost about $600,000 a year.