Arming the police: Police Minister’s explanation about her stance triggers questions about representation

It has been a quiet week in The Beehive, since the Minister Responsible for the Government Communications Security Bureau Andrew Little expressed New Zealand’s condemnation of malicious cyber activity by “Chinese state-sponsored actors”.

Ominously quiet.

What are they hatching now (we wonder) and when will they announce it?

Mind you, when we say it has been a quiet week in The Beehive, we don’t mean Ministers have been quiet.

Speaking as Minister of Police (for example), Poto Williams said she will not be backing down on her strong stance not to support the general arming of police because the Māori and Pacific Island communities she represents do not want it.

We kid you not.

And there we were thinking she was the MP for Christchurch East, a community of many ethnicities.

The graph we found on Parliament’s website suggests Maori and Pacific Islanders comprise a minority in the electorate and the substantial numbers of “European” residents comprise a bigger percentage of the total population (around 70,000 people) than they do nation-wide.

Source: Parliamentary Library using data from Stats NZ

According to the Star News:

Williams told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Yardley this morning that she supported police officers being armed when they needed to be, but did not think it should extend to the permanent arming of the force.

This was because she had listened to overwhelming feedback from the Māori, Pacific Island and South Auckland communities who didn’t want it.

The communities she represented – Māori and Pacific – who were telling her “loud and clear” that the general arming of police and the Armed Response Teams (ARTs) were a real concern to them and had been distressed to learn armed police were routinely patrolling their streets, she said.

Yardley is reported to have received hundreds of texts following the interview.

“I have never seen the text machine completely explode as it has in the last few minutes,” said Yardley, referring to listener feedback. “‘Mike, I am a serving police officer, I have started the day listening to your show feeling unbelievably disheartened.’; ‘Mike, the crims are going to be lapping this up’; ‘Is she representing the views, concerns of all New Zealanders?’,” said Yardley, quoting some of the feedback.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust accused Williams of “total rigor mortis” in dealing with gangs and firearms incidents.

“Police are being attacked, assaulted, and shot at in record numbers and the Minister needs to be making decisions based on their safety and ability to protect themselves and the community – not some politically charged implication that police are racist,” said trust co-leader Darroch Ball.

“This Minister is in total rigor mortis dealing with gangs and firearms incidents – and it is any wonder when she puts officers and community safety a distant second to the ‘community she represents’.”

Williams’ comments were made during the trial of the man who admits murdering Constable Matthew Hunt during a routine traffic stop, but has denied the attempted murder of a second officer.

A Hamilton officer was injured by a firearm during a routine traffic check this month.

But while Williams said she wanted police to return home safely to their families each night, she explained that she was supporting them with this by ensuring they were well-trained and had access to firearms when they needed it.

“I won’t support general arming because it will fundamentally change the nature of our relationship with our police.”

Williams would have been on less contentious ground when she announced measures to help flood victims on the West Coast.

Latest from The Beehive

 Flood relief

Temporary Accommodation Service activated for West Coast flooding event

The Temporary Accommodation Service (TAS) has been activated.  This means residents on the West Coast of the South Island and in the Marlborough region hit by flooding at the weekend can access help finding temporary accommodation.

The Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing), Poto Williams, said

“TAS is working closely with local authorities in the regions to assess the damage and establish how many homes have been affected but it is clear assistance finding temporary accommodation will be required for a number of households.

“The TAS team will collect registrations from displaced people who require temporary accommodation, establish what accommodation options are suitable, and connect them together.” 

Travel bubble 

Pause to Quarantine Free Travel from South Australia to New Zealand

Quarantine Free Travel from South Australia to New Zealand was paused from just before midnight last night.

But people currently in the state who ordinarily live in New Zealand will be able to return on “managed return” flights starting with the next available flight.

The pause will run for seven days, to 27 July, to coincide with the timing of the lockdown and will be reviewed on that day.

For more information, visit Unite Against COVID-19: https://covid19.govt.nz/travel/quarantine-free-travel/australia/

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