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Asia Minute: Arming Police in New Zealand?

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Several shootings involving officers from the Honolulu Police Department and the Department of Public Safety have taken place in the last few weeks. While internal investigations are continuing, recent violence elsewhere in the Asia Pacific is drawing attention to a significant difference when it comes to police departments.

Police in New Zealand do not generally walk around carrying guns. It’s a custom that’s shared in a swindling number of countries. They do keep firearms in their cars — pistols and rifles, also non-lethal devices such as tasers.

But that changed last week in the district of Canterbury on New Zealand’s South Island – following three recent shootings. Police there are now armed, and the recent violence has sparked a debate about the overall national policy.

The national Minister of Police said he supported that move, but does not expect the national policy to be changed.

The New Zealand Police Association is calling for all police to be armed as a matter of course.

Reuters quotes the association president as saying, “More and more policemen are finding criminals with guns, so unless we find a way of stopping these firearms from reaching them we will have no other choice but to arm our officers.”

Radio New Zealand says 11 years ago, less than half of police officers were in favor of carrying firearms. By 2017, two-thirds of police officers supported arming the force.

Local media say that since last June, there have been at least sixty cases of gun violence involving the police around the country.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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