Later in my police career when as a front-line commissioned officer, I was armed 24/7 with a .38 Smith & Wesson, on two occasions I confronted bandits armed with sawn off shotguns.
In the first instance, the bandit discharged his weapon from the shade of a tree some 20 meters from where I and 2 constables were alighting from a patrol car. He missed? Later he was charged with attempted murder of me.
The second occasion happened as I was driving along Hight Street, Auckland CBD when a bank robber bandit stumble in front of my patrol car, dropping $20,000 in notes in the process.
Alighting from the car I presented my .38 at the bandit. “Put it down Pal,” I recall saying.
And here a significant legal point arises. At that stage I did fear death or grievous body harm from the bandit and other than run away, I could not have prevented the bandit from shooting at me. Therefore, at law, I would have been justified in shooting the bandit.
He demurred, then lowered his shotgun. I was relieved. I went home to my family and the bandit went to jail. So, when I say, in my opinion it’s time to arm all the police 24/7, I do so as one who has “Been there. Done that.”
|Ross Meurant - first on the right|
The prevalence of firearms in the hands of bandits and the increasing number of incidents where firearms are presented and often discharged, not only in territorial disputes among Gangs or drug deals gone wrong, but used against members of the general public and of course, in confrontation with the police.
The deportation to our shores of New Zealand born gang members nurtured midst the more robust gangland activities in Australia, introduces a different mindset to the criminal activity confronting our police.
Events where firearms are presented, in my opinion, has passed a point which places routine police at a serious disadvantage.
However, as I now advocate general arming of all police, I urge a revisit to the way police shootings are handled by our ‘system of justice’ for in my assessment there is virtually no handbrake on police use of firearms.
In recent years on radio, Television and printed media, I have been a trenchant critic of shootings by police, not being examined in a proper Court of law. (1)
In all cases, any killing by police is scrutinised by the IPCA. However, this is not a Court of law but, in my view, a closed circuit virtual internal review of police culpability.
In my opinion the deliberate police shooting of Stephen Bellingham in Christchurch; the accidental police shooting of Tongan courier driver Halatau Naitoko (2) on an Auckland motorway and the killing of Jerrim Marshall Toms near Puhoi (3), are all cases which support a prima facie case against police for unlawful killings
Yet, in these and the cases of 36 persons shot dead by police and 40 people wounded between 1966 -2015, no police-initiated prosecution has ever been commenced. (4)
Accordingly, should Government implement a general arming of the police, there must be a review of how police killings are reviewed. In my view, the proper place for prima facie murder and/or manslaughter, must be before a proper court where all witness may be cross examined in Open Court.
To leave the scrutiny of police shootings in the hands of what I consider to be tantamount to a, “Boys Club” which has usurped the role of our Courts, is dangerous.
“Rule of Law – not Rule of Police- must be the standard we enforce in New Zealand.”
PS During my first term (of 3) as a National MP, I presented a paper to Caucus recommending the amalgamation of the NZ Police and the Transport Department traffic officers. In spite of opposition from some police, that recommendation was implemented by the Bolger government. Questions is; will the recommendation for a proper Court determination of all police shootings, face opposition from the police today and if so, will the current government override that objection?
(4) Ref: Ross Meurant, Out of the Inferno, Page 251 Siberian Wolf Publishing 2019