INDEPENDENT NEWS

Police Need 'Shields' To Save Downed Colleagues

Published: Mon 13 Oct 2003 08:47 AM
Police Need 'Shields' To Save Downed Colleagues
The Government must provide police with more than body armour - they must also have enough ballistic shields to rescue officers and people downed by gunfire and under threat by armed assailants, ACT New Zealand Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.
"Twice in six months Manawatu police have had to stand by while shooting victims died - perhaps needlessly - because police lack the inexpensive equipment used overseas for `extracting' victims under gunfire," Mr Franks said.
"The equipment could be obtained for each Armed Offenders Squad for around $25,000 - meaning the entire country could be equipped for less than the cost of one police `perf' exit. All squads could have them for a fraction of what just one police death costs in financial terms alone - let alone the cost in sorrow and discouragement.
"Every Armed Offenders Squad could have been fitted out for the amount Labour spent paying the Prostitutes Collective to solicit MPs for the so-called conscience vote over five months.
"A gunman held police at bay for hours while Detective Constable Duncan Taylor lay mortally wounded just outside Feilding. In the earlier incident, a woman bled to death over a four-hour period while calling 111 because police believed the gunman was still on the premises.
"The victims could have been extracted or saved if police were properly equipped with the ballistic shields used by overseas police. I asked New York police about the use of shields - when I returned and asked why we do not use them, I met a wall of obstruction and silence.
"We have had some shields but, it seems, not enough to train police. The plastic degrades slowly, and they need replacement after 5-10 years. I believe the Minister's office's evasiveness, and refusal to explain even how many we have, where they are, and why they have not been used, is a cover up for failing to make the decisions to keep them up to date.
"Under perilous circumstances the police cannot move in when the danger of unnecessary deaths is too great. Criminals can now rely on police being ordered to be scared of them.
"One of the great advantages of having shields is more confidence that officers can feel that they will not be left to die by their colleagues. With six-eight ballistic shields, officers can go in safely to extract victims, even under the threat of gunfire."
"They can be bought in New Zealand for $3,000-$4,000 each - very little to pay for saving a hero or hostage. Government penny-pinching on law enforcement sees our police force ill equipped. Labour would rather spend money on sensitivity training, and counselling after the fact, than risk appearing determined to deal firmly with criminals," Mr Franks said.

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